Warren Visser was just 22-years-old when he was killed in the Sizzlers massacre
The sister of one of the victims of South Africa’s worst queer mass killing, the Sizzlers massacre, has asked President Ramaphosa to help ensure that his killer does not go free.
Leigh Visser was just 14-years-old when her 22-year-old brother, Warren Visser, was slaughtered along with eight others at the Sizzlers gay escort agency on 20 January 2003 in Sea Point, Cape Town.
The 10 victims were as young as 17 and, in addition to Visser, included owner Aubrey Otgaar, staff members Sergio de Castro, Marius Meyer, Travis Reade, Timothy Boyd, Stephanus Fouche and Johan Meyer, and client Gregory Berghaus.
Despite being shot in the head, Quinton Taylor was able to escape from the scene and ran covered in blood to a nearby garage for help. He was the only survivor and went on to testify at the trial.
The massacre made headlines across the country and horrified the LGBTIQ community. Adam Roy Woest and Trevor Basil Theys were tried and convicted of the murders in what was officially ruled a robbery gone wrong.
But many questions went unanswered and some still believe that there was more to the brutal attack; that the killings were related to drug dealing and gangsterism or were even anti-gay hate crimes.
The killers were each given nine life sentences but Theys died of a heart attack in 2008 while in prison. Despite the lengthy sentences, Woest is now eligible for parole and could soon be back on the streets after just 18 years behind bars.
This is possible because Woest, 45, falls under a category of life prisoners eligible for parole after serving 20 years. Other special credits like good behaviour have further reduced this to 12 years and 4 months.
“Releasing him will tell the world that it is okay to kill nine gay men…”
Visser’s family were recently contacted by the Department of Correctional Services about his possible parole. This led Leigh Visser to write an open letter to Present Ramaphosa, along with an online petition “in the hopes that it will spark change, not only for South Africans, but for young gay men and women around the world, and for the generations that lie ahead of us.”
In the letter, she asks Ramaphosa to “look into the revisions of the Correctional Services Act, that allows mass murderers like Adam Woest, serial rapists and killers to walk the streets of a country plagued by heinous crime. Change the laws that allow these menaces to society the possibility of early parole. I ask specifically that you stop any possibility, any chance, of Adam Woest obtaining parole for early release.”
Visser, who now lives in Canada, left South Africa to escape the trauma of her brother’s murder.
“At just 14-years-old my perfect vision of the world and humanity was shattered. Suddenly, my world no longer revolved around Barbies and dollies, crayons and puppies, but instead my world became consumed by boogie men that haunted my every waking minute. At just 14-years-old I learnt the harsh reality that evil lives amongst us,” she writes.
Now in her 30s, she continues to be tormented by the massacre. “Today, the boogie man comes back to haunt me, but only this time in his more mature form, that of a cold-blooded monster with black expressionless eyes, a monster physiologically inclined toward barbaric violence, a monster whose name is Adam Woest.”
The site of the Sizzlers massacre in Cape Town
Pieter, who worked at Sizzlers but left just a month before the massacre, spoke to MambaOnline about the killer’s possible release.
“I was 17 when I entered the business. I didn’t really have a choice as I had nowhere else to go. Most of the boys didn’t really last long. Most of them were like me – alone in the world and used this as a stepping stone to get back on their feet.”
Pieter considers himself lucky to not have been one of the victims and was shocked by news that Woest could be parolled. “We cannot allow people like this to be let out early,” he says.
“What does this say about the gay community in Cape Town? How can anyone who knew those who were killed sleep knowing that the killer is out on the streets? We need to keep our community safe and send a message to those who do such things that there is a price to pay and consequences to their actions.”
Adds Pieter: “Releasing him will tell the world that it is okay to kill nine gay men because you will sit in jail for just a few years and then be released.”
If you agree that Woest should not be released on parole, you can sign the petition here.