Who are these two men, who brutally murdered nine men, almost 10, on one dark summer night? As is so often the case, they are completely ordinary.
Trevor Theys was his parents fifth and second-last child. His father was a fisherman and his mother a caterer. They were a middle-class family. When Trevor was 7, he entered school, but failed grades 1 and 2, although he did eventually finish standard 7 (grade 9). Then he left school, ostensibly for financial reasons. The court-ordered psychiatric evaluation found him to be of low average intelligence. He maintained that he had healthy relationships with his brothers and sisters. At the time of the killings, he had been living with one of his brothers, Charles, having been estranged from his wife for more than 20 years. He worked in Sea Point as a taxi-driver, mostly couriering prostitutes and escorts at night. He has three children. One of the psychiatrists who evaluated him, Dr Larissa Panieri-Peter, found no history of abuse or violence, nor any sign of homophobia.
Adam Woest is the oldest of three children. He characterized his mother, Celia, as caring and supportive, but his father was ill-tempered and prone to administering physical punishment. Adam spent his childhood first in Durban, a harbor city in KwaZulu-Natal, and then in George, a medium-sized town in the Eastern Cape. Apparently he had some adjustment difficulties in his playschool. Later he was diagnosed with dyslexia. In George he was placed in a special school, which he left after standard 8 (grade 10). As a child, Adam was bullied by other children, and spent much of his time alone, confined to his room. Adam, himself, did not have a history of aggression prior to the murders. His younger brother, Dirk, is homosexual, and there has never been animosity between them regarding this. Woest is a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, and he voiced much regret about being unable to see the final installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. According to one of the psychiatrists who evaluated him, Dr Ashraf Jedaar, Woest provided clear descriptions of the events on January 20, 2003, and expressed his remorse appropriately.
Neighbors, speaking to the Cape Argus of February 17, 2003, shortly after his arrest, described Woest as a quiet, somewhat introverted guy. Coworkers at the restaurant where he had been working at the time, in Die Burger of February 18, 2003, said that he was a normal guy who didnt attract much attention. Juan Uys, of the GLA, who lived in the same building as Woest, described him as quiet and neat. He recalled that they had shared an elevator on the day of Woests arrest, and a few days previously Woest had asked Uys opinion about the case.
Woest met his fiancée in 1996 in George. Three years later, he asked her to marry him. They moved to Bellville, a suburb of Cape Town, and a few months later to Sea Point. He found work at a restauranta different oneand she as a private nurse. She could not believe what the police had told her in February of 2003. This was not the man she knew. Since then she had received death threats and had been mugged on four occasions. Although she wanted to remain anonymous, she told her story in the July 2004 edition of the South African Marie Claire, from which the following information is taken.
She paints a different portrait of the man with the black eyes, using words such as loving, caring, soft-hearted, and remaining adamant that there was nothing aggressive about him. "Everyone makes him out to be this monster but thats not the person I know. He was always willing to help someone outhed give his staff meal to someone rather than see them go hungry. She said that they had been happy and had many friends, particularly from the first restaurant. He didnt use drugs and only drank socially.
She went to her family in Johannesburg for a two-week visit the day before the murders. She saw it on the news and talked to Woest on the phone that Monday evening. He said that it was terrible and that everyone was shocked. There was no hint that he had been involved. They spoke every day during those two weeks, and the only thing different about Woest was that he said he missed me. He didnt usually say that. Upon her return, she found him stressed, with a new hairstyle and spectacles. But that was Adam. Sometimes he got into a weird mood and wouldnt open up. He could be moody at times, a loner with a dark sense of humor.
They are no longer engaged, but she remains confused about this man she was supposed to spend the rest of her life with. At times she still loves him; at others, she hates him for what he had done. Ripples.
Warren Vissers mother, Marlene, went to visit her sons murderers in prison not long after their arrests. Her 14-year-old daughter accompanied her when she visited Theys. He went grey when he was told who she was, she said a year later in the Cape Argus. He was emotional, although he didnt cry, and Marlene deduced this was mostly due to her daughters presence. She concluded that Theys "was definitely the softer of the two.
Marlene visited Woest alone and they spoke for 30 minutes. His eyes were like bottomless pits, she told the Cape Argus. He cried, but something about it didnt feel right to Marlene. We spoke about what had happened and how I felt, but I felt that our conversation was more like a game to him. I dont believe he felt any real remorse for what he had done. Subsequently, Woest called her on two occasions, during which he complained about the prison conditions and spoke mostly about himself.