Monday, January 20, 2003

Massacre: 8th victim dies

CAPE TOWN — The massacre of eight men at a Cape Town gay massage parlour early on Monday has been met with outrage from politicians, sex workers and gay rights activists.

The victims were all found with their hands tied behind their backs. They had been shot in the head and some of them had their throats slit.

Safety and security MEC Leonard Ramatlakane, who visited the house, appealed to the public to come forward with information on the gruesome attack.

"It is shocking to see human beings massacred in that way. It is clearly a planned execution, which suggests that it is a matter of organised crime," the MEC told reporters.

Ramatlakane confirmed that a high-level integrated police task team had been established to investigate the crime which would be looked at from all angles.

"No stone will be left unturned to ensure that the perpetrators of this despicable crime are brought to book," Ramatlakane said.


The bodies of five men were found in the main bedroom of the Graham Road house, a well-known all-male massage parlour operating under the name "Sizzlers". A sixth body was found in an adjacent room.

When police arrived, they encountered three men, horrendously wounded, crawling about in agony on the wooden floor of a room in the house.

A fourth man had somehow managed to escape, although he too had been shot in the head. He made his way to a nearby filling station where he told the attendant what had happened before he collapsed.

Three of the injured were rushed to the Groote Schuur Hospital where two had died.

Hospital spokesperson Philippa Johnson said one man died at the hospital at 08:00 and the second man at 14:00. She said one of the victims was in his 20s and the other in his 50s.

The man who managed to make his way to the filling station was taken to Somerset Hospital before being transferred to Groote Schuur. He was reported to be in a stable condition but Johnson said the other man was "critical".


The men were all tied up with packaging tape and made to lie face down on the floor in a row in the communal bedroom.

They had all been shot in the back of the head and most had their throats slit.

Police spokesperson Captain Etienne Terblanche described the scene as "horrendous".

According to neighbourhood residents Graham Road was a quiet area, and there had been no problems at No 7 during the daytime.

But Terblanche said police were at times summoned at night after receiving complaints of rowdiness and drunkenness.

Terblanche said it may take some time to identify the victims as many of the men who usually frequented such establishments used aliases.

He said the police investigation was at an early stage and he did not wish to speculate about possible motives.

This was in reply to a question posed by the media as to whether the killing had anything to do with Nigerian drug dealers or a protection racketeering scheme.


Earlier, some neighbours had said they were fed up with the number of Nigerians in the area. They all declined to be identified.

Terblanche said an investigating task team along with members of the serious violent crimes, organised crime and crime intelligence units had been formed to handle the investigation.

A team of detectives had interviewed several people in the vicinity of the crime scene to find possible witnesses.

Forensic detectives spent virtually the entire morning combing the crime scene for clues.

Terblanche said further information would be released when it became available.

Scenes of utter chaos greeted journalists when they were finally allowed into the main bedroom of the red-tiled house one at a time and more than seven hours after the men were murdered.

The outside of the picket-fenced property, with its garden of trees and flowers partly hiding the house from the road, appeared neat and tidy. It gave no clue as to what had happened inside.

The main bedroom was dark and dinghy. Heavy curtains covered the windows and there was blood everywhere.

The room contained six bunks piled on top of each other, apparently for guests wanting to spend the night.

Teddy bears

The room appeared to have been ransacked with items of clothing and teddy bears littering the floor.

Inside the house there were also television sets and video cassette records but police, asked, did not divulge what was on the tapes.

There were also cubicles inside the house equipped with massage tables and pornographic photographs of men glued to the walls.

Around 09:30 a woman, apparently a domestic worker, arrived at No 7 and, the moment she saw the mayhem, started crying uncontrollably.

"Where's Eric, where's Eric," she wailed as she was comforted by a policewoman. She was escorted from the scene. It could not be confirmed, but Eric is believed to have owned or managed the massage parlour.

The United Democratic Party condemned the killings and called on the authorities to prioritise "this senseless crime".

The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) said it was dismayed by the killings.

"As an organisation that advocates and lobby for the human rights of sex workers, we are distressed to hear that sex workers were part (sic) of the 10 men that were attacked," Sweat co-ordinator Althea Macquene said in a statement.

Hate crime

"Currently sex work in South Africa is dangerous work. The present law that criminalises sex work forces the sex industry to operate underground with no protection or regulation.

"This situation opens up the industry to criminal activity and sex workers are particularly vulnerable to criminal related activities and violence," Macquene said.

The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project in its reaction to the massacre said it was shocked.

The organisation's director Evert Knoesen said indications were that the murders could be a hate crime.

"People who work in the sex service industry are particularly vulnerable (to violence) as they operate outside the parameters of formal society."

An local flat owner who declined to be identified said he had been awakened by shots and had seen a man with a gaping wound to his neck, staggering up Oliver Street to a service station in Main Road.

He said 15 police vehicles and four ambulances had converged on the scene shortly after 04:00. All roads leading to Graham road were immediately sealed off.

Another elderly couple, out from the United Kingdom to escape the British winter, said they had heard the shots from their nearby flat.

"We came here from England to escape the weather and this is what happens," said the husband, who did not wish to be named.

"At the age of 77, you've seen quite enough so nothing surprises you anymore," they said.

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Created: January 24, 2003
Last modified: January 24, 2003
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