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VICTIMS OF MEDICINE ( MUTI ) MURDER IN SOUTH AFRICA THE 11 TH ASIAN POST GRADUATE COURSE ON VICTIMOLOGY AND VICTIM ASSISTANCE (17 – 29 July 2011) Faculty of Law University of Indonesia Jakarta DR ROBERT PEACOCK email@example.com MONASH UNIVERSITY SOUTH AFRICA. Conceptualisation.
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THE 11TH ASIAN POST GRADUATE COURSE ON VICTIMOLOGY AND VICTIM ASSISTANCE
(17 – 29 July 2011)
Faculty of Law
University of Indonesia
DR ROBERT PEACOCK
Human body parts are considered to be more powerful than the usual ingredients used by a traditional healer (Sangoma) as it contains the person’s ‘life essence’
With the most powerful part being the hands, ears, nose, lips, eyes and genitals furthermore these parts power properties are enhanced if the victim is young and virile
The traditional healer usually advocates it after they have consulted with the ancestors and client
A third party carries out the actual victimisation – never the traditional healer
Normally there is a conspiracy: the murderer(s) is assisted by a family member or acquaintance to acquire a suitable victim
Traditionally the victim must be alive when the body parts are removed as this increases the ‘power’ of the muti because the body parts then retain the person’s ‘life essence’
The purpose of the muti or medicine is usually to improve an individual’s or the community’s circumstances
A person’s means of obtaining this extra portion of luck or restoring the natural order is through the use of strong muti.
Not be assumed that in modern times such practices are sanctioned by the larger community.
The majority of Africans and traditional healers do not condone such behaviour and associate it more with charlatans and ‘evil’ traditional healers.
Despite this reluctance, there are times when this type of victimisation is more prevalent.
Timing of a wound is also important, muti mutilation is typically pre-mortem therefore the wound site shows an indication of a vital reaction and bleeding.
Police may also not recognize the bodily insults to be muti in origin and may assume them to be the actions of a ‘crazed’ killer.
Serial murder victims sometimes have mutilated bodies or removed body parts.
For example, Stewart Wilken in South Africa cut off the nipples of one of his black victims. Samuel Jacques Coetzee removed the genitalia of one his black male victims, and the Cape Town Serial Killer disemboweled one of his female victims.
Large sums of money are involved. A human head can cost up to approximately US $1000
The client is not directly involved in the victimisation and would only approach the traditional healer to explain his/her need, provide the money, and collect the muti once prepared.
This makes it difficult to convict the client in instances of muti victimisation, as it is difficult to prove that he knew he was paying for muti that would eventually require the murder of an individual.
The traditional healer: S/he would instruct a third person, the murderer(s), to collect specific body parts and in how to carry out the removal of those body parts.
The traditional healer is, as a rule, not typically involved in the removal of the body parts.
The body parts are usually obtained on request when there is a need and not ‘stockpiled’ for future use.
The murderer: Approached, by the traditional healer, to obtain the body parts.
Very rare to act on own initiative to obtain a human head and then seek a buyer.
Murderer is carefully instructed in how to remove the body parts, and told that the victim must be alive when they are removed.
Murderer ensures that the victim has the necessary qualities that the client needs and therefore he may know the victim to a greater or lesser degree.
For example if the client’s need was to be more lucky at gambling, then the murderer might be instructed to seek out a victim who is known to be a ‘lucky person” thus it is rumored that the murderer may select victims from within his own family or community.
No specific categories of individuals who commit the actual murder or victimisation (no obvious psychopthology).
It may be a person who still honours the old traditions, or one who seeks the financial reward offered for the body parts, or one who is bribed to become an accomplice.
Weapons used in the victimisation tend to be everyday items such as pocket-knives, sharp kitchen knives or even in one instance a sharpened putty-spatula used for tiling and inserting panes of glass.
No instances of the use of surgical instruments have been documented.
Aim is to inflict pain and suffering
Sexual theme: rape, semen etc
Fantasy being played out by the removal of body parts thus mutilation
Less severe, few wounds thus more functional
Aim is to remove body parts
No sexual theme
No fantasy attachedDifferences between muti victimisation and other victimisations involving mutilation
Often isolated incident
Body parts are ordered and therefore mutilation would be unique
Body parts are given to traditional healer
One month after the victimisation a suspect was arrested and confessed to the murder.
He confessed that he had strangled the victim and engaged in post-mortem vaginal sex with the body.
He took police to the site where he had buried a bag containing the hands, the external genitals, a kitchen knife used to removed the body parts, the clothing of the victim and several pieces of cloth used to wipe the body.
His reason for the removal of the body parts was to get rid of epithelial cells under the victim’s fingernails and semen from the vagina, which he stated he knew could be used for DNA comparison to a potential suspect.
No DNA from semen was discovered in the remaining parts of the vagina, the mouth or anus of the victim during the autopsy, possibly due to the advanced state of decomposition.
He even anticipated future scientific developments which led to him wiping the dead body with a piece of cloth to remove any other potential physical evidence - successful individualisation of DNA transferred to the neck of a victim during manual strangulation has been reported.
Although a centuries old phenomenon, very little is known about the cruel practice of harvesting the organs of victims for medicine purposes while they are still alive.
To study this phenomenon from a victimological perspectiveit is recommended to adopt a cultural sensitive approach factors that shape the lives of individuals and communities.
A cross cultural understanding of ideas of rationalism is critical whilst attempting to place the religious beliefs of communities in their specific contexts. Multiculturalism and religious pluralism make an understanding of alternative belief systems crucial.
This understanding refers not only to a cultural contextbut also to legal and community context as it is also clear that local communities have their own systems of law and justice and procedures of how to deal with ritual victimisation.
As this is a relatively unknown phenomenon it is finally recommended to conduct research in the qualitative and explorative paradigm in order to develop grounded theory that can serve as a blueprint for quantitative research in the explanatory (cause and effect) paradigm.
Labuschagne, G.(2004). Features and Investigative Implications of Muti Murder
in South Africa. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 1: 191-206.
Ｍinnaar, A et al (1992). To live in fear: Witch burning and medicine murder in Venda. Pretoria: Human Science Research Council.
Petrus, T.S (2006). A proposal towards a theory on witchcraft-related crime in postcolonial South Ａfrica．Acta Criminologica, 19(2):142-151.
Petrus, T.S. (2007). Ritual crime: Anthropological considerations and contributions to a new field of study. Acta Criminologica, 20(2):119-137.
For easy access to the South African journal of Criminology go to:
click on Acta Criminologica