• Plants can play a vital role in linking individuals to crime scenes: from the leaves we step on to the pollen that stick to our clothes. If you are curious about the secret language of plants and the link to crime scenes, be sure to read the article about Forensic Botany published in Servamus: September 2020.

  • Forensics is a fascinating science with a variety of subdisciplines that are used to link an individual to a crime scene. In an article published in Servamus: September 2020, we highlight some of the lesser known forensic disciplines.

  • Wildlife crime can be fought by using forensics, such as in poaching incidents where forensics is used to link seized rhino horn or ivory to a crime scene. If you want to read about the development of wildlife forensics, be sure to read the article in Servamus: September 2020.

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The number of women who have committed violent crime globally, is very small in relation to male perpetrators. Women are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators. But when women kill their husbands, they are considered to either be highly traumatised which leads them to murder their partner to find a way out of a living hell, or they are psychologically unstable.

Compiled by Kotie Geldenhuys

The crime rate for women as perpetrators in South Africa is low and according to the 2018/2019 Annual Report of the Department of Correction Services, of the total inmate population of 162 875, just more than 4300 were women, some of whom were incarcerated for mariticide.

According to the Collins Dictionary, mariticide is derived from the Latin word “maritus” which is “married” and “cide: from “caedere” which means “to cut, to kill”. Mariticide literally means the murder of one’s spouse, but has become most associated with the murder of a husband by his wife (Collins Dictionary, 2012).

The name of Daisy de Melker is one of the first that comes to mind when mariticide is discussed. She was a trained nurse who poisoned two of her husbands with strychnine during the early 1900s to benefit from their life insurance money. Thereafter, many more women murdered their husbands to get their hands on money. Najwa Petersen, the wife of musician Taliep Petersen, was involved in the murder of her husband in December 2006. Her motives seemed to have been jealousy, fear of rejection or an attempt to secure her own financial position. Najwa was sentenced to 28 years’ incarceration (refer to the Crime Series published in Servamus: December 2013). Another woman with deadly motives was Mulalo Sivhidzo from Northriding in Gauteng, who ordered the murder of her husband, Avhatakali Netshisaulu in December 2006 as she wanted to inherit from him. In February 2011, she was sentenced to life incarceration for the murder of her husband (refer to the Crime Series published in Servamus: September 2019). Fransisco Paulo Ferreira was yet another man who died at the hands of his wife for money. He was stabbed to death in his home by three men in February 2014 after his wife Hazel had ordered his murder to prevent him from finding out that she had stolen his savings. Hazel Ferreira was sentenced to life behind bars (De Lange, 2016). Female murderers like Hazel, Mulalo and Najwa are nicknamed after the black widow spider, who consumes her mate after conceiving. Similarly, the killing black widow typically murders her spouse or lover. These women are described as gold diggers, masterminds, and they are arrogant and callous.

Although women murder their husbands for financial reasons or out of jealousy, there are those who are convicted of murder or manslaughter of a male partner where there is a history of domestic violence. For the purpose of our article, our focus will be on those women who stay alive by murdering their abusive partners. Some of these women are serving lengthy sentences of incarceration because they took the lives of their abusive, violent partners in self-defence.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find accurate information on how many women have been incarcerated for this reason. There is also limited academic research into women who murder their abusive partners.

Domestic violence is common all over the world and in the majority of these cases, husbands tend to be the culprits and women the traumatised victims. In South Africa, crime statistics for domestic violence and femicide are high with numerous examples of women who had lost their lives at the hands of their partners, such as Karabo Mokoena. Cases where abused women murdered their abusive partners are not that common. International research how-ever, illustrates that the majority of women who murder their intimate male partners are victims of domestic violence. They act in what they perceive as self-defence or out of total hopelessness, by murdering their intimate male partners to end the spate of abuse (Pizarro, DeJong and McGarrell, 2010). Often, the abused women hope that the abuse will end and that the offender will change, but when this does not happen, murder becomes the result of lost hope (Hesselink and Dastile, 2015).

Ending the abuse
Fifty-seven-year-old Martha Libuseng Marumo regarded murder as the only option to end the abuse she suffered. She is serving a life sentence at Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre in Pretoria for murdering her abusive husband, Clitus Marumo, in 2003. During a two-day national summit against gender-based violence and femicide which was held in Pretoria, Martha told activists that her husband was abusive and that he refused to use a condom when they had intercourse. "He was sleeping with different women, using his car as a bedroom," she said. When she turned to her husband's family for help, they turned their back on her and his uncle even threatened her. Desperate for help, she sought assistance from the police and a counselling organisation for the abuse she was suffering, but they did nothing to help her. For her, her only option was to kill her husband which was why she contracted three men to shoot him (Fengu, 2018).

Another woman who faced abuse at the hands of her husband and decided that enough was enough was Ruby Marais from Stilbaai, who also ordered the death of her husband, Basie. During her trial, she painted a less than flattering picture of her husband, the ill-tempered man to whom she had been married for almost two decades. She raised the defence that she was a battered woman who had been suffering abuse at Basie’s hands for many years. The court heard that Basie was an abusive husband who frequented brothels and who relished terrorising her. Some of her claims were that he physically abused her by kicking, hitting and throttling her, that he abused her emotionally by shouting at her in public, that he threatened to kill her daughter, that he had extramarital affairs and encounters with prostitutes, that he raped her regularly, that he threatened her with weapons and knives and that he would sometimes kick her dogs or throw them against a wall. The night before he died, she had to sleep on her haunches on a cement floor. She was terrified of him. “He was very unpredictable, very bombastic. The physical violence started in 1990,” she told the court. She noted that her husband’s affairs had started early in their marriage and his regular visits to brothels were reflected on their bank statements. “I often confronted him, and would then be assaulted,” she said.

[This is only an excerpt of an article published in Servamus: July 2020. The rest of the article discusses how victims are failed by the Criminal Justice System; and how victims commit murder in self-defence. We cite various examples of mariticide and what happened to the victims. If you are interested in reading the full article, send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact our office at tel: 012 345 4660/22 to find out what to do. Ed.]

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Servamus - September 2020

When crimes are committed, the first thing criminals want to do is to get rid of the evidence that would link them to that crime.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
When Albert du Preez Myburgh abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered his close friend's eight-year-old daughter in May 1999, he did not realise that bugs would play a role in his conviction and sentence.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
When Sinja Robin Mabitsela and Josias Xaniseka Mkansi (also known as the Alexandra Balaclava serial rapists) started their raping spree, they did not realise that their DNA would be their downfall.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Imagine how challenging it must be for scientists to identify a victim when only skeleton remains are available… now imagine how much bigger this challenge becomes for forensic anthropologists when only burnt skeleton remains are available and they have to identify these bones.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - September 2020

In Servamus: July 2020, Pollex published a legal quiz regarding the current/recent state of disaster. Please refer to that issue for the questions.

Letters - September 2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic which has affected many and claimed the lives of so many, is still continuing to be a global threat for which there is no cure.
Const Kwayo Louw (23), a policeman from Kraaifontein, was recently commended by the Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz for his exemplary contribution towards his community in Kraaifontein.
Retired W/O Sham Singh, the first Indian Station Commander of Lenasia, celebrated his 80th birthday on 9 July 2020. A milestone birthday for anyone and it was even posted on Facebook.
September Magazine Cover

Servamus' Mission

Servamus is a community-based safety and security magazine for both members of the community as well as safety and security practitioners with the aim of increasing knowledge and sharing information, dedicated to improving their expertise, professionalism and service delivery standards. It promotes sound crime management practices, freedom of speech, education, training, information sharing and a networking platform.