MURDER FOR HIRE – Michael Sears (Murder Is Everywhere)

On July 29, 2010, Michael Sears (half of the writing team known as Michael Stanley) wrote a post for the blog he shares with six other writers (Tim Hallinan, Leighton Gage, Cara Black, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Dan Waddell, and Jeff Siger).  He wrote was writing about countries with the highest murder rates (Columbia) and he made special note of the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean.  With a population of just over 86,000, it is rather surprising that the Seychelles comes in at number seventeen.  The US is number 24.  Michael writing is wry, funny with a twist.

Do It Yourself?

I took a look at where South Africa fits in the murder statistics stakes. Well, Colombia is number one. We’re number two (but we try harder). Botswana doesn’t even get a mention. The US is twenty-fourth, but little Seychelles weighs in at seventeen. That looks like an opportunity. Does anyone write murder mysteries set there? What a great place to do research!To indicate the scope of the opportunities here, I scanned the murder trials underway at the moment. There are quite a few to choose from. Leave aside the armed robberies that went wrong (or right depending on the perspective of the perpetrators), there are several juicy options of a more personal nature. Since the police always suspect family and acquaintances, it has become a cottage industry here to hire someone to do the job for you. It’s cheap, and you keep at arm’s length so to speak. On the other hand you tend to get what you pay for. These are not Day of the Jackal types, but rather unscrupulous characters after some easy money. Once they are shaken up by the police, they tend to sing like birds (although not as sweetly as the uirapuru).In December 2006, the son of a prominent newspaper editor, Avhatakali Netshisaulu, was set upon by a group of men, beaten with bricks, and shoved into the trunk of his car. The car was then doused with gasoline and set alight. One of the culprits testified to hearing his victim’s screams as he burned. This charming individual consoled himself by drawing a bit of extra cash from an ATM using the murdered man’s credit card.

As the murderer, it’s important to keep the arm’s length you paid for. On hearing the news from her accomplices, Mulalo Unity Netshisaulu, 28, Avhatakali’s wife, rushed to the scene. According to reports, she shouted to the onlookers: “That’s my husband’s car. Have you looked in the trunk?” Other witnesses at the scene said the model and color of the car were unrecognizable because of the scorching flames. When the trunk was eventually opened revealing remains not even obviously human, Sivhidzo allegedly said: “See, now do you believe me? I’m a widow.” With commendable restraint the prosecutor commented that she “sounded as somebody who was privileged to information.” Mulalo then conducted media interviews at the scene, causing a witness to comment that she was “too composed” for a woman who had just lost her husband. Afterwards she spent her time watching her interviews on television, even asking a police inspector to help her adjust the TV aerial to get a better image. Finally she short-changed her accomplices (she had promised about $1,000 but paid them less) and told the police she suspected one of them as a possible murderer! I don’t think we need Detective Kubu to wrap this one up.

A much higher profile case opened this week. Brett Roger Kebble, a business magnate, manipulator of billion dollar gold mining companies, patron of the arts, was shot to death in his luxury sedan on the 27th of September 2005. Initially an attempted hijacking of the car was suspected but a variety of issues made the police suspicious. Not least was the multimillion dollar insurance policy Kebble had taken out shortly before his death. Creditors were closing in on his collapsing empire – some had themselves been violently attacked – and some two billion dollars’ worth of shares had vanished.

Brett Kebble
One of Brett Kebble’s homes
It is now believed that Kebble organized his own murder. He was more valuable than poor Mr Netshisaulu so the price was much higher – more like a quarter of a million dollars. The fixer for this event is alleged to be a man by the name of Agliotti. The trial only started this week because Glenn Agliotti was the star witness in the corruption case that brought down the police commissioner, Jackie Selebi. But that’s another story.
Glenn Agliotti

Still, the money didn’t buy much professionalism. On the first try the hit men used a car that overheated and had to abandon the attempt, leaving Kebble driving around wondering if they had shot the wrong man. On the second and third attempts the gun jammed. The fourth time they finally managed to get it right. One has a touch of sympathy for this high-flyer who was willing to give up his life to try to save his family from disgrace and penury. But the bottom line is that it was a plot to massively defraud an insurance company.

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