A Chance Discovery
Stewart Wilken presents an interesting case because he killed two distinct types of victims. Serial killers almost invariably target victims who share certain characteristics, which may be anything from their physical appearance to their vocation to something as mundane as wearing high heels. They do this because it provides them with an emotional release. Ted Bundy killed young, attractive women. Jeffrey Dahmer killed homosexual men. Andrei Chikatilo killed children of both sexes. Stewart Wilken killed adult female prostitutes and early adolescent boys. Like all serial killers, there was a deep psychological motive underlying his choice of victims.
Africa map, w South Africa highlighted
Port Elizabeth is a large town on the east coast of South Africa, a country known for gold, apartheid and Nelson Mandela. It is also the country with the second highest number of serial killers, after the United States (Pistorius, 2000), although this is a lesser-known fact. By the beginning of 1997, at least eight people had already been killed by the same man over a seven-year period in Port Elizabeth, or PE, as it is generally referred to by South Africans. However, no one had connected all the cases.
Port Elizabeth, S Africa
But Stewart Wilken finally made a mistake.
On January 22, 1997, a 12-year-old boy named Henry Bakers disappeared. His mother, Ellen Bakers, was not concerned, as the boy frequently stayed over at his grandmothers house in nearby Missionvale, which is walking distance from their home in Algoa Park. However, when he did not arrive home by Thursday evening, she became uneasy. On Friday morning, she went to her mothers house, only to hear that Henry had left for home on Wednesday.
He had been missing for two days.
The Child Protection Unit was contacted and Sgt. Ursula Barnard began to investigate the case. She discovered Henry had been at his mothers house on Wednesday afternoon, after which he played with a friend at a nearby park. The friend told her that he had to go and buy milk for his parents and later saw Henry with a man called Stewart Wilken in Dyke Way. He asked Henry where he was going and the man said that it was none of his business. Wilken was known to both Henry and Ellen Bakers, and had even lived at her mothers for a while after he had had some marital problems.
Sgt. Barnard set out to find Stewart Wilken, which was problematic because he did not have a fixed address. She was informed by a colleague that Wilkens daughter, Wuane, had disappeared in 1995, and that there were also two charges of sodomy being investigated against him. Like Henry Bakers, Wuane was last seen in Wilkens company. The sodomy charges were filed by his parents-in-law in connection with the two sons of his second wife, Victoria.
Sgt. Barnard arrested Wilken on January 28, 1997, and questioned him. He appeared genuinely concerned about the missing boy and eager to help. He told Sgt. Barnard that he had indeed been with Henry for a while on that Wednesday, but he knew nothing about his disappearance. In fact, Wilken alleged that he had spent the night at a lady friends house. He was released.
The alibi turned out to be false, and Wilken was rearrested on January 31, 1997. The Child Protection Unit approached Sgt. Derrick Norsworthy of the Murder and Robbery Unit. He had been trained by Dr. Micki Pistorius, South Africas first psychological profiler, in the investigation of serial murder, which included advanced interviewing and interrogation techniques.
South African police logo
Sgt. Norsworthy had Wilken brought to his office, where the latter introduced himself as Boetie Boer (Brother Farmer), the name by which he was generally known. Sgt. Norsworthy sat Wilken down in a chair facing a photograph of the sergeants daughter, who was almost the same age as Wuane had been. He left Wilken alone for a while. Upon his return, he found Wilken staring at the photograph. Sgt. Norsworthy drew Wilkens attention to the framed certificates on his wall, signifying that he had successfully completed training as an investigator of serial homicide. Wilkens eyes found the photograph once more. Sgt. Norsworthy told Wilken that he knew he had killed the two children. He also knew that Wilken had revisited the bodies to fantasize and commit necrophilia. Wilken was silent, then his eyes drew on slits and he stretched out his hands. I am sick, he said. Then, he admitted that he had killed both his daughter, Wuane, and Henry Bakers. In fact, he had returned to the decomposing body of the boy that very morning to have sex with it.
Wuane was Wilkens daughter from his first marriage. She was last seen on September 29, 1995, by her half-sister, who was Wilkens first wifes daughter from a previous relationship. Wilken, who had been married to his second wife for almost five years by now, was visiting with Wuanes mother. Later that afternoon, the half-sister saw Wilken with Wuane, sitting on a sidewalk about 150 feet from their home.
Wuane was never seen alive again.
Wilken stated that he had been concerned about Wuanes welfare. Her stepfather was molesting her and there was not enough food in the house. Wuanes half-sister admitted that there were times when they did not have food and that their new stepfather did not like them. Wilken claimed Wuane told him she wanted to run away.
Wilken took her to Happy Valley. There is a garden here, filled with fairy-tale figures such as dwarves. Wilken played there as a child and said they were some of his happiest memories. When he left his second wifes home, he went to stay in the bushes near Happy Valley.
Here Wilken inspected Wuanes vagina and found that she was no longer a virgin. He wanted to save her from the kind of life that he had had, and strangled her, thereby sending her soul to God (Die Burger, 1998, p. 1). He removed her clothes and kept her body, talking to it and sleeping next to it at night. When the body had decomposed, he covered the skeleton with a tarpaulin. He placed her clothes next to him, as if they were still being worn.
Regarding Henry Bakers, Wilken said he met the boy in Algoa Park. Henry allegedly asked Wilken about sex. Wilken took the boy to an open field on the outskirts of Algoa Park. He told the boy to take off his clothes and proceeded to perform fellatio on him. Then he told Henry to lie on his back and he sodomized the boy. Henry cried and protested, and Wilken began to strangle him. As the boy died, Wilken ejaculated.
Wilken also alleged that Henry was being physically abused by his parents. As he had done with Wuane, he wanted to send Henrys soul to God. Henrys parents said that they had scolded the boy when naughty and at times had hit him on his buttocks, but that they had never kicked him, as Wilken alleged.
Holiday Inn Garden Court hotel
Wilken showed police where he had left the bodies. He took them to the place, behind the Garden Court Holiday Inn, where he had kept Wuanes body, and later her skeleton, for almost six months. This would finally provide the identity of a skeleton found there beneath a blue-green tarpaulin on May 22, 1996. At the time, forensic experts had only been able to identify the skeleton as belonging to a white girl, younger than 12.
S Africa policeman
Then, Wilken took them to Henrys body, hidden in bushes near Algoa Park. The boys body was found infested with maggots.
Back at his office, Sgt. Norsworthy again confronted Wilken. He told Wilken that he knew there were more bodies.
Wilken replied that there were probably at least 10.
He proceeded to make a full confession to his lawyer, describing the crimes in explicit detail, using particularly foul language. This confession kept Sgt. Norsworthy and his colleagues busy for months, trying to locate the murder dockets (which is what case files are called in South Africa) pertaining to the crimes Wilken had described.
Prostitutes and Young Boys
It appears Wilkens first confirmed victim was murdered in February 1990. He was 15-year-old Monte Fiko. He was a street child, of which, unfortunately, there are quite many in South Africa. Wilken sodomized the boy at Cilliers Secondary School in Sydanham and strangled him.
On October 3, 1990, after an argument with his first wife, Wilken picked up a prostitute, Virginia Gysman, at Russel Road. She was 25. He payed her and took her to Dagbreek Primary School, where they had sex. He then penetrated her anally. When she complained, he strangled her with her clothing and ejaculated as she died. He left her body in the schoolyard.
On January 10, 1991, Wilken was solicited by Mercia Papenfus, age 37, at the Red Lion Hotel. They went to St. Georges Park. When Mercia demanded her payment before intercourse, Wilken flew into a rage and strangled her. Then he sodomized her and left her body in the park.
St Georges Park, S Africa
On October 21, 1991, Wilken met a 14-year-old street boy, who apparently agreed to have sex with him for money. Wilken took the boy to St. Georges Park. The boy wanted his money, which angered Wilken. The boy tried to flee, but Wilken overpowered him and sodomized him. He ejaculated as he strangled his victim.
In 1993, somewhere between June and September, Wilken met another young street child and solicited him. They went to Target Kloof, where Wilken sodomized and strangled the boy. He hid the body in the ravine.
On July 27, 1995, Wilken killed a prostitute again. Her name was Georgina Boniswa Zweni, aged 42, whom he took to Prince Alfreds Park. He sodomized and strangled her. He was still filled with lust and proceeded to sexually assault her with a knife. The forensic pathologist testified at Wilkens trial that the wound was star-shaped and it appeared as if the assailant had stuck in the knife, pulled it out, stuck it in and pulled it out repeatedly (Die Burger, 1998, p. 5). In all, he counted at least 20 stab wounds, which included a cluster of five next to her navel. He characterised it as a wild knife stabbing. Wilken also cut off her nipples and ate them at the scene. Her clothing was thrown into a fish pond.
On September 29, 1995, Wilken murdered his 10-year-old daughter, Wuane.
On May 25, 1996, he solicited a 22-year-old prostitute, Katriena Claassen, at the Albany Road interchange. They went down to the beach. Wilken shoved a piece of plastic bag down her throat to keep her from screaming, sodomized and strangled her.
Fort Frederick, South Africa
Somewhere between May and August of 1996, he met another street child, whom he took to Fort Frederick. After the boy masturbated him, Wilken told the boy to undress and sodomised him. The boy threatened to tell the police and Wilken strangled him. However, it is clear that he would have killed the boy anyway. He hid the body.
On January 22, 1997, Wilken murdered Henry Bakers.
Wilken told Sgt. Norsworthy that he returned to the bodies of the boys he had killed. He rubbed vinegar and butter on the boys feet to hide their scent from the police dogs. He rolled up pieces of newspaper and inserted it into their anuses to keep the maggots out, so that he could commit necrophilia. He denied having any sexual interaction with Wuane, both before her death and afterwards.
Boksburg, in Johannesburg
The baby who would become Stewart Wilken was born on November 11, 1966, in Boksburg. When he was about 6 months old, he and his 2-year-old sister were left in a phone booth, where they were later found by a domestic worker, who took them to the home of her employer. This man, known only as Doep, subjected the boy to terrible abuse. He burned the boy with cigarettes on his genitals. The boys food was given to the dogs and he had to eat with the animals from their bowls. Doep also engaged in acts of bestiality with his dogs, and the boy had to lick his penis afterwards. At some point, the boys sister disappeared and he did not know what happened to her.
This went on for a year and a half.
When the boy was 2 years old, the neighbours, Mr and Mrs Wilken, adopted him out of compassion. He was undernourished and infested with lice. (Mrs Wilken would later confirm the cruelty perpetrated against the boy by Doep.) The Wilkens gave the boy the name of Stewart Wilken, although he called himself Boetie Boer. At some point, they moved to Port Elizabeth.
Port Elizabeth area
Stewart did not do well at school, neither academically, nor socially. He failed the third grade three times. He was mocked by his peers because he was adopted. According to Wilken, the teacher had not intervened on his behalf, but instead had incited the others further. The next day Stewart assaulted the teacher and was severely beaten by the principal in front of the other children.
He often bit his stepmother as well as other children. She punished him for these and other disobediences by locking him up in his room, where he kicked over lights and other furniture. According to Wilken, she had also locked him up in a cupboard. He was punished for wetting his bed. There was an incident where a boy attacked him and when he fought back, was sent home. Wilken recalls that his stepmother had not taken his side, and he had decided that from then on, he would be his own mother, father, sister and auntie (Pistorius, 2002, p. 156). At the age of 8, he started smoking marijuana.
Strangers on the Street, by Pistorius
When he was 9, a deacon invited Stewart to his home one day after Sunday school. There, the deacon sodomized the boy. During this same year, either before or after this incident, Stewarts stepfather died.
Stewarts stepmother felt overwhelmed by the difficult boy and sent him to a reformatory. Here he was locked up without clothes as punishment, and the older boys sodomized him. He often tried to run away, but had to return. After he completed Standard 9 (Grade 11), Stewart enlisted in the Army, but was discharged after four months, when he attempted to commit suicide. He moved in with his stepmother in Despatch, which is not far from Port Elizabeth.
Stewart met the woman who would become his first wife, Lynne, in a nightclub. On December 25, 1985, they had a daughter, whom they named Wuane. Lynne stated that after Wuanes birth, Wilken would only have anal sex with her, often in very uncomfortable positions. Wilken later alleged that Lynne turned to prostitution at this time.
The marriage was not a happy one. Wilken assaulted his wife on numerous occasions and she had him arrested for smoking marijuana. They got divorced, and Wilken vowed that he would never have sex with a white woman again, for fear that it might be his long-lost sister.
He met a coloured woman, Veronica, who already had two sons. (There are four main racial groups in South Africa: white, of European descent; black, which comprises numerous different indigenous tribes; coloured, which refers to people of mixed race; and Indian, descendants from India.) Wilken and Veronica married and had two daughters. This marriage also did not fare too well, and Veronicas parents accused Wilken of sodomising the two boys. It was at this time that he left the house and went to live in the bushes near Happy Valley.
The Psychology of Stewart Wilken
The first six years is one of the most important periods of human development. It is a critical period for psychosocial development, in particular forming attachments to other human beings (Louw, Van Ede & Louw, 1998). A critical period is a specific span of time during which a child is biologically ready and susceptible to develop specific skills, behaviours and/or capacities, provided that she or he is exposed to the appropriate environmental conditions and stimulation (Berk, 2000). A critical period does not repeat itself; if a child should fail to develop those characteristics which fall in a critical period, it may forever be too late.
Attachment is a psychological term referring to the emotional bond which develops between people, particularly between the child and his or her primary caregiver, which is usually the mother (Louw et al., 1998). This emotional connection is visible in the childs positive feelings when near the mother, as well as going to her in times of uncertainty and fear. Although researchers initially believed that feeding was important in the formation of attachment, studies indicated that warmth, comfort and social interaction were the real significant factors (Berk, 2000).
Child Development, by Berk
John Bowlby (in Louw et al., 1998) studied the development of attachment between child and mother, and distinguished four stages in this process. During the third stage, from 6 months to 2 years, the normal child becomes firmly attached to her or his mother. This is precisely the time when Stewart Wilken was abandoned by his mother. Instead, he came to be with a cruel man who showed him no love.
How these four phases proceed is highly significant for the childs development. A mother who is generally unresponsive and unaffectionate toward her child will not mediate the formation of healthy and secure attachment in her child. Children with healthy attachment will be able to use their mother as a secure base from which to venture out into the environment and explore, happy in the knowledge that they can return to her in the face of anxiety. The child thus develops the belief that the mother will be there in times of stress, which creates an internal working model for all future intimate relationships (Berk, 2000).
Stewart Wilken did not have this. He had a caregiver who abused him, hurt him and humiliated him. He could not develop the trust that there would be someone he could count on. Research has repeatedly found that emotional deprivation during the early years of life has a permanent effect on the childs personality (Louw et al., 1998).
This is also the stage during which the foundation of socialization is laid (Louw et al., 1998). Socialization refers to the acquisition of the values, rules and moral standards of a particular culture (Reber, 1985). In the early years of life, this task falls mainly on the parents shoulders. They have to teach the child which types of behavior are acceptable and which are not. Initially, it involves basic manners, such as keeping quiet while others are speaking and toilet training. As the child gets older, the content of socialization becomes more complex. Two important ways in which parents act as socialization agents are: (1) directly, by teaching their children how something is done; and (2) indirectly, by acting as models (Louw et al., 1998). Parents who behave in a loving and caring manner will generally evoke similar behaviour in their children.
It is obvious that Stewart Wilken did not receive proper socialization at the hands of Doep. He was not taught to respect other people, that others should not be harmed. At the core of socialization lies the realization that we live in a world filled with people who should be treated with respect. How could Stewart Wilken learn this from a man who abused him and treated him like a dog? Instead, the boy learned that your own feelings and needs are paramount, regardless of the consequences on the lives of others.
Although the physical abuse decreased significantly when he was adopted, it does not appear as if his emotional world improved to the same degree.
An aspect which is apparent in almost every serial killers childhood is the absence of a proper father figure (Ressler & Shachtman, 1993). Stewart Wilkens biological father abandoned him. His next father figure, Doep, abused him. Apparently, Mr. Wilken was good to him and Stewart had affection for him, but his stepfather died when Stewart was 9, just the time when the father becomes very important in a boys life. As a result, Stewart was left with no role model. He could not identify with a male figure to learn how he should be a man. Instead, he was sodomised by a deacon from the church. Again he was confronted with the message: Men are abusive and take what they want from others.
As children get older, friendships become increasingly important. Not only is friendship pleasant to the children involved, but it provides a situation in which many socially oriented behaviours are learned and practised. Children gain a deeper understanding of other people, and become aware of different viewpoints. It moves them away from an egocentric point of view and helps with the development of empathy and helping behaviour (Berk, 2000). Their social skills improve and they become better at dealing with people. Friendship can also be invaluable in coping with stressful situations.
Social Psychology, by Baron & Byrne
Stewart Wilken did not have close friendships as a child. Part of the reason may lie in the attachment style he developed. Children with secure attachments are much more proficient in developing friendships later in life than children with insecure attachments (Baron & Byrne, 1997). Stewart was mocked and ridiculed by his peers.
In such a situation, the child tends to become isolated and withdraws into his own world. He develops feelings only towards himself.
To compound the situation further, his stepmother sent him to a reformatory. Again he was rejected by his mother. Again he was abused by others. Again he was sodomized by older, more powerful males.
The crimes of serial killers are fuelled by their fantasies (Douglas & Olshaker, 1997, 1998b). Their fantasies are central to their beings. Unfortunately, we know nothing of Stewart Wilkens fantasies. Still, it would be logical to assume that he fantasized about revenge, about him being the one with the power. Fantasies find especially fertile soil in the tortured and the isolated.
Victimology, Part 1: The Boys
One way in which children master the negative experiences is to fantasize about it with the child now in the powerful role (Berk, 2000). Thus, if the child feels ineffectual in his life, ignored or rejected by others, or emotionally abused, he may create a fantasy where he is the powerful one, the one who rejects and abuses. This may evolve into what Miller (1987) calls the repetition compulsion. Recognizing his own prior powerlessness and helplessness in the weaker boy, as an adult Wilken could identify with the powerful person and become the abuser. Instead of being the powerless boy being sodomized, he could become the powerful man doing the sodomizing. This was a psychological mechanism which alleviated his own painful memories.
Wilken described in his confession that he often recalled the deacon sodomizing him as he walked with the boys he picked up.
However, Stewart Wilken never quite fits into a theory. It seems as if he also wanted to save other children from the same life he had lived, from his pain. We will probably never know whether he truly meant this. If he did feel that way, however, it can be interpreted in two ways: (1) he may genuinely have wanted to send their souls to God, to a better place; or (2) he may have seen himself in these children and consequently wanted to send himself, symbolically through them, to a better place.
Perhaps both are true.
Victimology, Part 2: The Prostitutes
Where did his hatred of prostitutes come from? We dont really know. Wilken accused his first wife of prostituting herself after Wuane was born. He also believed that prostitutes were committing a sin by charging money for something that God had given freely to women and men (Pistorius, 2002). Perhaps it was displaced anger at his biological mother for deserting him, at his adoptive mother for not being the mother he wanted. Perhaps it was displaced anger at his wives.
Catch Me a Killer, by Micki Pistorius
Of course, prostitutes have always been a favourite among serial killers. Indeed, Jack the Ripper, the first widely known serial killer, preyed on prostitutes. Why? Prostitutes are easy prey: They are easily accessible, will talk to anyone who is a potential client and go with that person without knowing who he is. Particularly those who walk the streets, as opposed to the higher class escorts, are not always missed and are only noticed after their bodies are found (Ressler & Shachtman, 1998). But there is also a motivational issue: Prostitutes are explicitly connected to sex and openly flaunt their sex, which may somehow tie into the killers fantasies, perhaps because these worthless whores need to be punished (Pistorius, 2000).
Whatever his reasons, Wilken truly hates prostitutes and does not think that they deserve to live. He has never demonstrated any remorse about the women he killed (Pistorius, 2002).
Those readers who are familiar with John Douglas books (1997, 1998a, 1998b) will also be familiar with the difference between modus operandi (MO) and signature. Briefly, MO refers to those aspects of an offenders behavior which are necessary to successfully complete the crime, e.g. wearing gloves so as to avoid being identified. Signature refers to those aspects of his behaviour which are only necessary to fulfil his emotional needs, e.g. taking off his gloves just before strangling his victim because he needs to feel her skin.
Stewart Wilken liked to face his victims while sodomizing them so that he could watch their faces as he strangled them. He referred to their last moments as the jellybean effect (Pistorius, 2000, 2002). Their eyes would bulge, their lips swell and their tongues protrude from their mouths. It was at this moment when he would ejaculate.
There are three base motives of the serial killer: domination, manipulation and control (Douglas & Olshaker, 1997). Wilken felt inadequate and inferior, but when he was killing, his victims were completely under his control. Particularly at the moment of the jellybean effect, he was vividly aware that he had power over their life or death. This sense of power is intoxicating, and he felt omnipotent (Pistorius, 2000). This was the moment he felt alive and divorced of his usual inadequate existence. By being in control of another person, he felt as if he had control over his own life. Wilken often became enraged when his victims demanded their payment or complained that he was hurting them, and he would kill them almost immediately. He felt that they were trying to take his control and would not have it.
Prof. Tuviah Zabow, who evaluated Wilkens ability to stand trial and distinguish between right and wrong, described him as a sadist. Certainly, anal rape is classified as sadistic (Douglas & Olshaker, 1998b). His preference for the jellybean effect is even more so. But Wilken again does not fit neatly inside the box. Sexual sadists like to torture their victims in elaborate fashion, usually over protracted periods, and they relish any cries of pain (Michaud & Hazelwood, 2000). Wilken seemed to be motivated to kill as soon as his victims complained of pain. Perhaps because he remembered his own pain?
Be that as it may, his sadistic pleasure in watching his victims, including the boys, die, stands in stark contrast to his contention that he wanted to save them. However, it does not necessarily deny its truth. Serial killers do not think the same way that normal people do. While it seems contradictory from a normal perspective, it need not be from Wilkens.
The murder of his daughter is possibly the most interesting part. By all accounts, Wilken loved Wuane. Her half-sister testified that Wilken and Wuane had a good relationship, that he visited her frequently and brought her presents. She said that he loved her. Both his wives stated that he was very kind at times, particularly toward children.
Why did he kill her? Perhaps he truly believed he was saving her from being sexually abused as he had been.
He kept her body close to him even when she was completely skeletalized. He spread her clothes out next to him and talked to her. To this day, he denies having had any sexual contact with her (which may or may not be true). This does not conform to the behavior of a truly psychopathic killer.
Still, this post-offence behaviour begs the question: Was it because he loved Wuane, or because he grieved for himself?
Stewart Wilken appeared in court on February 3, 1997, charged with the murders of his daughter and Henry Bakers. Over the months that followed, more charges were added as the police connected the crimes detailed in his confession with existing murder dockets. The final charge sheet listed 10 counts of murder and five of sodomy.
Both Dr. Micki Pistorius and Prof. Tuviah Zabow testified that serial killers in general and Wilken in particular cannot be rehabilitated. At least once during the trial, while Dr. Pistorius was testifying, Wilken asked to be excused to go to the bathroom. On his way he indicated to Sgt. Norsworthy that he was going to masturbate.
Wilkens defence did not contest seven of the murder charges and two of the sodomy charges. Regarding the others, they felt there was not sufficient evidence to prove Wilkens involvement beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mr Justice Chris Jansen concurred and found Wilken guilty on seven counts of murder and two of sodomy on February 20, 1998. (In South Africa, criminal cases are presented before a judge who decides the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The jury system is not employed.) The murder charges related to Wuane, Henry Bakers and Monte Fiko, as well as all four of the women.
On February 23, 1998, Stewart Wilken was sentenced to seven terms of life imprisonment. Mr Justice Chris Jansen said that Wilken had to be removed from the community. If the death penalty had still been available in South Africa, he would have imposed it. He mentioned that, while almost everyone had turned away from some of the videos shown, Wilken had displayed no emotion.
Wilkens wife, Veronica, attended the proceedings and they were reconciled. After sentence was passed, they spoke for a couple of minutes and parted with a passionate kiss.
Sgt. Norsworthy somehow managed to track down Wilkens biological mother. She had been reunited with Wilkens sister shortly after she had disappeared. She asked Sgt. Norsworthy to tell Stewart that she had not abandoned him and that she loved him, despite her shock at the truth of what her son had become. Wilken broke down when he heard this. When they spoke on the phone, he called her Mommy, a name he could not remember having used before.
Stewart Wilken is currently in St. Albans Prison, where he is tormented by hallucinations and delusions of persecution. He believes that the ghosts of his victims are haunting him. Dr. Pistorius (2000) feels that, in the absence of being able to portray the role of the aggressor, he has reverted back to being the victim.