A KWAZULU-Natal man dubbed the Sugarcane Killer has confessed his grisly crimes to a senior police officer, the Verulam Regional Court heard yesterday.
A shackled Simphiwe Khoza, 36, dressed in a khaki hooded top and grey pants, appeared courteous during his first court appearance.
He asked heavily armed policemen where he should stand, thanked the magistrate and even greeted the interpreter.
But the court heard that the man standing in the dock was a cold-blooded killer, who lured his three victims to their death via social networks including Facebook.
State advocate Sagra Subroyen said the first victim was under the impression that she was in a relationship with Khoza.
“The victim, from Vryheid, met the accused over a social network and assumed he was her boyfriend. The accused then lured her to a sugarcane field in Tongaat, robbed her and then got rid of her body by burning it.”
Subroyen told the court that detectives had established that Khoza killed his victims by burning them. “We are still investigating if they had been raped and what other methods were used to kill them.”
Two victims were identified as Hillcrest domestic worker Phindile Ndlovu, 44, and KwaNongoma teacher Philisiwe Hlatswayo.
When asked by magistrate K Chetty if Khoza was linked to the crimes because he used the same modus operandi, Subroyen replied that a witness and cellphone records had pointed to the accused.
“A witness noticed smoke emanating from a sugarcane field and upon discovery saw Khoza standing next to a partially burnt human leg. The witness came forward with this information when police circulated a photograph of the accused as a wanted man.”
Khoza also made a “confession and various admissions” and would point out crime scenes to police, the court heard.
He is charged with three counts of murder, four counts of theft and a count of robbery with aggravating circumstances.
After consulting with a Legal Aid attorney, Khoza indicated he planned to apply for bail on his next court appearance, on July 30. Subroyen said the state would oppose bail as Khoza was a flight risk because he fled after committing his crimes.
“It took a special task team, which worked around the clock, to track him down and arrest him in St Francis Bay on Sunday.”
Two months ago, police arrested a woman who led them to Khoza.
Subroyen said that the investigation revealed that Khoza was possibly linked to other cases.
There is speculation he could be the Riverman killer, who terrorised a Durban north community between 1999 and 2003. The Riverman’s 13 victims were found in or near the Umgeni River.