Cape Town – Theresa van der Vint said goodbye to the other sex workers who worked alongside her until late in the afternoon on a tree-lined stretch of Old Faure Road near Eerste River.
Most of them were older and were going home to take care of their children.
But 16-year-old Van der Vint, known as “Trish”, stayed on the beat a bit longer, and as dusk fell that Saturday, a client stopped and picked her up.
But once she was in his car, there was no way out.
A few hours later Van der Vint’s body was found lying half-naked in the sand, covered with branches, near a footpath close to Macassar beach.
She had become the 19th victim of the Cape prostitute serial killer.
Murdered on May 15, 1996, Van der Vint was his last victim – and also his youngest.
Her legs had been spread apart, her skirt pulled up and her jacket twisted around her neck and face. When her jacket was removed, a thin mark around her neck suggested she may have been strangled with wire.
The serial killer had used a similar modus operandi to murder 15 other prostitutes and three domestic workers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, between 1992 and 1996.
Only after the body of his 12th victim, Marilyn Persent, was found in September 1995 did police connect unsolved cases from many different police stations, and realise a serial killer was at work.
Street sex workers in Cape Town, who charged R50 for sex and R30 for oral sex at that time, were caught in a spiral of terror.
The bodies of the murdered women were dumped across the Cape Peninsula and Boland, next to highways near places such as Worcester, Durbanville, Atlantis, Gordons Bay, Somerset West, Camps Bay and Brackenfell.
And even though police offered R500 000 for information leading to a conviction, the case was never solved.
A month after Van der Vint’s murder, the only suspect identified in connection with the killings, George Weir, a grey-bearded hobo and divorced father of two from Parow, was arrested.
He lived in a caravan, drove around in a blue and white bakkie, wore a bandanna and a wristband with the stars and stripes of the US flag, and often socialised with prostitutes.
He was charged with the murder of Francis Seliston, one of three domestic workers whose deaths were attributed to the prostitute serial killer, because her fingerprints were allegedly found on the windows of his bakkie.
During his bail application, task team leader Sergeant Piet Viljoen testified that Weir had described his former wife as “a whore”, and said, “it’s clear to me he’s got a grudge against women”.
During an interview before Weir’s arrest, Viljoen said he believed the killer looked like an average client – a fairly intelligent white and married male, possibly a businessman, lawyer or policeman, aged between 20 and 35 and earning an above-average income.
But after a year and a half in detention without trial, Weir was released thanks to lack of evidence in December 1997.
Several years later, it was revealed that a police officer had committed large-scale fingerprint fraud and had “planted” Selesten’s fingerprints on Weir’s car.