Is a serial killer targeting homeless people in Pretoria parks?

The belongings of one of the people believed to have been killed by a serial killer in Pretoria. /SANDILE NDLOVU
The belongings of one of the people believed to have been killed by a serial killer in Pretoria. /SANDILE NDLOVU

Homeless people are living in fear and believe a serial killer is on the loose following the deaths of three men in the streets of Pretoria.

In the past few weeks, the bodies of three homeless men were found in Muckleneuk. They all suffered stab wounds.

The latest victim was found at Magnolia Park on Sunday, just a day after another body was discovered. The third body was also found in Muckleneuk at an open veld near Mears train station.

Their blood-stained belongings including shoes, clothes and linen were found in the park where two of the victims were found.

Spokesperson Capt Daniel Mavimbela said police were investigating.

He said the victims were killed in a similar manner.

"The deceased were found to have suffered at least blunt force trauma and multiple stab wounds to the upper body. The motive behind the killings is unknown and the identities of the deceased remain a subject of investigations," he said.

"Sunnyside police have launched a manhunt and deployed among others, forensic experts, multiple informers and intelligence networks [to work on the cases]. [We] call upon relevant stakeholders to join hands and intensify efforts to ensure the safety of homeless people," he said.

A street beggar at a robot near Magnolia Park said though he did not know the name of one of the victims, they had a close relationship.

"I used to smoke with the one they found on Sunday. We used to buy our stuff at the same place and we used to smoke together. I saw his body before police arrived.

"The blood was still fresh. He had seven stab wounds on the left side of his neck. It was very sad," he said.

The man said though he did not live in the same park, he now feared for his life.

He said the incident has since changed the way beggars and motorists relate.

"We fear that there might be a serial killer out there who is killing homeless people. Maybe they are motivated by hate. People used to pass here with their windows down, talk to us and give us money. Now I've noticed that people are acting strange for the past three days. They no longer talk to us or give us money."

Another homeless man who sleeps on a stoep of a restaurant said: "I can't sleep in peace anymore. I thought about going back home to Limpopo but I know that I will be a burden to my parents who old and poor. We are not safe."

City of Tshwane MMC for health and social development Sakkie du Plooy said this year, the municipality has budgeted R5m for the next financial year towards assisting homeless people.

He said the city would renovate several old and abandoned buildings that are habitable to house homeless people.

Du Plooy said there were about 7,000 homeless people in the city. "We are trying very hard to find accommodation of some sort for homeless people but it is almost impossible because of the influx of so many people into the country.

"We are about to renovate Struben 2. We will clean up there and appoint a homeless forum to take responsibility of the facility. We are about to occupy another building in Steve Biko Road. This is our only real facility," he said.

Du Plooy said the centre would provide programmes that will assist drug users and provide skills development.

CEO for forensic pathology services in Gauteng Dr Mosou Morule said a body that comes into a mortuary without identification is considered an unidentified body after seven days when all means of identification have failed.

He said the primary responsibility of identifying a body was with the police with the help of mortuary authorities. "Means would have been tried through ID books, if those are not available, clothing, face of the body, the media...

"If the person is not claimed within 30 days they are called unclaimed body. [This after more efforts including DNA sample tests]. If all fails then by law we will dispose of the body in a manner that we commonly call an unidentified funeral," he said.

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