Elifasi Msomi

Hello, my Freaky Darlings!

This week’s serial killer is Elifasi Msomi a.k.a. The Axe Killer who was convicted on the 28th of September 1955 of 15 murders and sentenced to death by hanging in the Pietermaritzburg Supreme Court by the Honourable Justice J Kennedy. His victims all came from the Umkomaas and Umzimkulu valleys of KwaZulu-Natal.

Elifasi, a Zulu, was an unsuccessful young inyanga (a herbal doctor or shaman), a trade he learnt from his father. Seeking professional assistance, he consulted with another sangoma. Elifasi claimed that during this exchange he was possessed by a tokoloshe. In August 1953, under the instruction of the tokoloshe, he began an 18-month killing spree in the southern KwaZulu-Natal valleys of South Africa.

Elifasi raped and murdered a young woman, Olivia Khambula, in the presence of his mistress, Ngongolwana Zaca, whose blood he kept in a bottle. He tried to hide Olivia’s body in an ant hill. After travelling with him for another two weeks Ngongolwana finally alerted the police who arrested him. He escaped shortly afterwards, giving credit for his escape to the all-powerful tokoloshe. He returned to his killing spree, hacking his own aunt and uncle to death with an axe. He was once again arrested and then escaped again. Elifasi was arrested a month later for petty theft. The stolen items turned out to belong to his victims and he was soon fingered as the killer.

Elifasi readily assisted the police in finding some of his victims remains, including a missing skull. Whether he gained further satisfaction from revisiting his crime scenes or felt diminished responsibility in light of the tokoloshe’s influence is unknown. During his trial, he claimed that he was merely a conduit for the evil tokoloshe. Two psychologists, Dr Cheze-Brown and Dr Hemming, disagreed, stating that Elifasi was in fact of much higher than average intelligence and further that he was sexually aroused by inflicting pain.

Elifasi’s reference to the tokoloshe and his numerous escapes caused a high level of fear amongst some of the Zulu community. Upon request, the judge permitted nine Zulu Chiefs and Elders to attend the hanging in order to confirm that the tokoloshe did not save him from his death. But one chief felt that Elifasi may return after death as the tokoloshe himself.

Now, that thought gives me an idea for a story …


If you’re fascinated by serial killers, you may enjoy my serial killer thriller – Requiem in E Sharp.

Joan De la Haye_Requiem


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