Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Moses Sithole

Growing Up

Like practically all serial killers, Moses Sitholes formative years were not ideal. He was born in 1964. His father, Simon Tangawira Sithole, his mother, Sophie, and his five siblings lived in Vosloorus, a historically black area just south of Germiston and Boksburg. While Moses was still a child, his father died and his mother was soon unable to manage financially. When they had to leave their home, Sophie had nowhere to take the children, and consequently decided to leave them at a police station. She made them understand in no uncertain terms that they were not to tell the police officers that she was her mother. The children were placed in an orphanage in Benoni, but the boys were soon transferred to the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Sithole claimed that they were mistreated and he ran away three years later.

Thus, again we find the absent father figure identified by Robert Ressler as a frequent characteristic in the serial killers childhood. In addition, the rejection by his mother undoubtedly left an indelible impression on the young Moses, and probably initiated his resentment towards and hatred of women. What is interesting, however, is that his brother Patrick did not choose such a destructive path. Perhaps Patricks increased age played some role, but this still reminds us that environmental conditions only explain a part of the picture.


There are many fascinating parallels between the lives and crimes of Moses Sithole and American serial killer Ted Bundy. Bundy, of course, did not grow up in ideal circumstances either. Being conceived illegitimately, his mother, Louise Cowell, went to a home for unwed mothers, leaving her son there for two months after his birth to decide what to do. In the end, she came and took him home, where he was raised somewhat transparently as if he were his grandparents adopted son. When Bundy was 5, his mother moved away and later married John Culpepper Bundy. Ted Bundy never really knew where he belonged, and the same is true of Moses Sithole.

Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy

Moses fled from the orphanage and found a place to stay with his brother. Patrick moved to Venda, and not long after, Moses sold the house without permission. Its not mentioned how old he was. He found employment in a number of menial capacities, on farms and at the numerous gold mines surrounding Johannesburg.

Like Bundy, Sithole apparently didnt lack female company, although his relationships tended to be fleeting. Sithole told some of his rape victims that a girlfriend had wronged him. Thus we have an absent father figure, a mother who deserted him and a woman who, whether real or imagined, mistreated him in some way. Bundy lost the father figure he maintained that he adored, his grandfather, when his mother moved them away to Tacoma, Washington. In addition, his mother lied to him about his legitimacy for years, and a college woman he coveted for all that she symbolized, broke up with him.

The two men liked to kill quite similarly, although Bundy was perhaps more violent. Although Sithole slapped his early victims, there was never any evidence of blunt force trauma found. Bundy, of course, was quite partial to his crowbar or tyre iron. Both, however, liked to strangle women, and underwear, particularly pantyhose, worked very well. Bundys last couple of victims at the Chi Omega sorority house were left face down in their beds, their skulls bashed in. Perhaps, like Sithole, he also preferred to kill from behind.

They killed in fairly rapid succession. Their lust for power and control was not to be easily sated.

Book cover: The Stranger Beside Me
Book cover: The Stranger Beside Me

Interestingly, both had on occasion helped others, even to the point of saving a life. Bundy worked on a crisis line alongside author Ann Rule, who provides testimony in her book, The Stranger Beside Me, that he helped numerous callers, some clearly in the process of committing suicide. He also saved a toddler from drowning in 1970. Sithole helped streetchildren and even reunited some runaways with their parents.

The two men approached their trials differently. Bundy, with his affection for the centre stage, frequently usurped his defence and engage in court theatrics. Sithole, in contrast, preferred to remain silently in the dock, merely smiling as if the extinguished lives of 37 women and one child were all very amusing. Which is indicative of the mindset of both the psychopath and the serial killerother people are merely objects and props for them to use and abuse according to their whim.

In the end, Sithole was convicted of all the murders he is believed to have committed; Bundy of only three. Bundy received death; Sithole, life.

Neither Ted Bundy nor Moses Sithole employed crude techniques in obtaining victims. Women werent forced away at knife- or gunpoint. They werent blitzed from behind and dragged away under the cover of night. Although Bundy sometimes killed during the day, sometimes during the night, Sithole invariably lured his victims away in broad daylight. Both frequently took women from amidst crowds. Both were intelligent, organized and extremely efficient.

Bundy, not only having studied psychology, but also receiving training in it, knew that women would not be intimidated by a man in a cast and would be inclined to help such a man struggling to carry or move something. Sithole may not have been formally educated, but he knew that employment opportunities in South Africa were scarce and could be exploited to lure women into a vulnerable situation. Both manage to charm and evince trust from their victims.

Janice Ott, victim
Janice Ott & Denise Naslund, victims

Bundy used numerous disarming techniquescrutches, posing as a police officer. At Lake Sammamish Park, on July 14, 1974, he approached women with his left arm encased in plaster, trying to enlist their help with a sailboat. Janice Ott and Denise Naslund didnt view him with suspicion and obeyed their helping nature. They paid for their altruism with their lives.

Ted Bundy and Moses Sithole in fact epitomises the horror and fascination of serial killers. They appeared perfectly normal and blended in completely. These werent troll-like creatures, creeping closer under the cover of dark, crazed and drooling, snatching daughters away while their parents were sleeping. They walked in the sun, smiling and chatting, mixing with the crowd before leading one member away. To bludgeon and strangle and rape and kill.

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