The beginning

Candice Nolan / Mar 19, 2019

The beginning


Shall I start at the beginning? Or begin with the end? The end is gripping. Lethal. Deadly. Gruesome. Dramatic. It started at the end for me. Up until that point I had no idea of the intrigue and drama behind a landmark, quite away from the beaten tourist track.

It’s an unbelievable tale. It sounds like something straight out of the Godfather. To borrow from Coolio, Power and the money. Money and the power. You know the saying, live by the sword, die by the sword? Someone called it karma. Which leaves me to wonder, what kind of life do you need to leave to die that way.

I’m referring to what has become known as the “Northcliff murders”. Brother, sister and daughter were kidnapped from their home. Their remains were found burnt, two of them beyond recognition, in a field miles away from home. The autopsy report said the two females had been nearly cremated. So much so that they were unable to establish the exact cause of death.

All that remained of the male was a torso and a head. Nobody says what happened to his legs. But its said that a tyre was used to burn all three bodies. The man’s face was so badly beaten that he was virtually unrecognisable. He died as a result of blunt force trauma which burst the base of his skull. The only thing that remained of the youngest victim were her feet.

That’s how her family was able to identify her. By her distinctive feet. DNA tests would later confirm this. These are some of the facts that remain hidden. According to the SA Police Service, there were 20,336 murders in South Africa between April 2017 and March 2018, showing a 7% increase from the previous year. This includes the so-called Northcliff murders.

Nobody cares to delve beyond the statistics. We are too shell shocked. Too battle weary. We are a violent society. Just look at apartheid, we squeal. No wonder our criminals are so brutal, have so little regard for life. Poverty! Inequality! We are, after all, the most unequal society in the world. I think.

I mean they were practically necklaced. A term used to describe a form of mob justice, under apartheid, where an Askari (enemy spy) would have a tyre placed around their neck before being set alight. Alive. It evokes the image of the burning man, from around 2008 when the so-called Xenophobic Attacks wreaked havoc. Horrific.

I covered a murder trial once. The victim was the son of a prominent journalist. He was hijacked and stuffed in the boot of his vehicle which was then set alight. I will never forget the day the pathologist took the witness stand. He explained that one would experience the pain of burning but for a moment. As the fire burns past the nerve endings in the skin, one stops feeling the heat. The victim would die of asphyxiation. Internet polls would rank this as the worst way to die.

Apparently the funeral directors and the scientific community are at odds about whether there can be such a thing as a worst way to die. It’s inevitable after all. Death is. I imagine that the victims of this particular tragedy were in agony. Knowing you are going to die – one day and actually dying are worlds apart, I would imagine. Especially, when one considers that the natural instinct is to cling to life.

Still, the confessions admitted into evidence say that the older female simply collapsed and that the uncle and niece really put up a fight for their lives. And when a family member consulted a medium, it was only the older female who bothered to pitch up. The medium speculated that the other two must be reincarnating until their soul’s reach fullness and healing.

These murders will have you questioning.

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