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THREE people are in custody accused of killing a string of prostitutes and homeless people and then using the death certificates in an elaborate insurance scam.
Durban police who cracked the syndicate have so far laid 21 murder charges, the earliest dating back to 2003. And police believe the number could rise, according to the Independent Online website, which carried the story after it appeared in the Cape Argus at the weekend.
Two women and a man – Maryanne Tholile Dimba, 38, Brenda Mdluli, 42, and Sibusiso Buthelezi, 23 – have already appeared in court and pleaded not guilty, according to the website.
Dimba, who police believe masterminded the scheme, was arrested in Johannesburg in April, and the other two in Durban in February.
According to police, the scheme involved opening bank accounts for so-called family members using fraudulent identity documents (ID).
The organisers then allegedly took out funeral and insurance policies in the names on the fake accounts, naming themselves as beneficiaries.
The police investigator, Inspector Danie Reyneke, told the Argus: “First they take out a funeral policy because that pays out within 24 hours and can be taken out over the telephone in a 10-minute phone call.
“The policy is for about R10000 or R15000.”
After a few months of policy payments, a homeless person or prostitute would be “picked up” and lured to their vehicle.
The scamsters would then “make them drunk until they pass out” and remove anything which could identify them, Reyneke said.
They were then killed and disfigured so badly they were unrecognisable.
One woman was stabbed 72 times. None was stabbed less than 40 times, while some were also driven over, Reyneke told the Argus.
The name and phone number of the scamster “relative” would be left on the body, and police would then contact them to identify it.
They would do so using the fraudulent ID and acting very sad and tearful about their dead “sister” or “brother”, police said.
They could then later collect the insurance and funeral policy money with a “legitimate” death certificate, which the Home Affairs Department would issue after the “identification” at the mortuary.
Police say some of the “dead” people have been traced and are still very much alive.
The officers are still investigating whether any Home Affairs officials or bank employees are involved in the syndicate, the Argus said.
The number of false insurance claims using the thousands of unidentified bodies in the State’s mortuaries is rising, an expert was quoted by the Argus as saying. — DDR
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