Warren Visser was just 22-years-old when he was killed in the Sizzlers massacre
The sister of one of the victims of the Sizzlers Massacre, South Africa’s worst mass gay killing, is 19 years later still fighting against the release of her brother’s killer.
Leigh Visser was 14 years old when her 22-year-old brother, Warren Visser was slaughtered along with eight others at the Sizzlers male escort agency on 20 January 2003 in Sea Point, Cape Town.
The 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, one victim, Quinton Taylor survived and went on to testify at the trial of Adam Roy Woest and Trevor Basil Theys. They were each given nine life sentences in what was ruled a robbery gone wrong.
Theys died of a heart attack in 2008 while in prison but despite the life sentences, Woest is eligible to apply for parole.
Leigh, who now lives in Canada, is horrified that the man who slaughtered her brother could be walking the streets and has continued to fight a campaign to ensure justice for her brother.
Following news that Woest has again been denied parole after a recent hearing, Mamba spoke to Leigh about the process that could eventually free him.
We saw a report that Adam Woest’s most recent attempt at parole has been denied by the Parole Board. Are you relieved?
I think perhaps the headline might be misleading. Nothing has been finalised yet. What has happened is that a parole hearing took place without my knowledge, despite my formal request to be present. The Parole Board then made a recommendation to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola that Woest not be released. In the case where the offender is a lifer, the Parole Board does not decide the fate of the offender but rather the Justice Minister himself. We are awaiting the final verdict from the Justice Minister.
Does this at least suggest progress in the right direction?
Many have commented to me that the recommendation from the Parole Board must be a huge relief, and I truly wish I felt the relief. Although this is one small step in the right direction, what South Africans don’t understand about the parole process is that the offender will always come up for parole every few years until either he is released from prison or the offender dies. So the sad reality, being that I’m 34-years-old, in my lifetime I am expected to go through this about another 10 to 12 times before one of us passes away. So no, I do not feel relieved, especially as I have seen the horrific job the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has done to date with managing our case.
Can you give us some examples?
My constitutional right and that of the other families have been violated. Despite us formalising my request to participate in the parole hearing, a parole hearing took place and I was never invited to participate in it, nor was I or the other family members made aware that a hearing was taking place.
Why were the families of the other victims not contacted?
The Social Auxiliary Worker assigned to our case exerted no real effort in locating families. I received a report from DCS which outlined the process and results of tracing the families of the victims. Within this report, I can see that only two family members were contacted and the only means of attempting to locate families was to visit a home address of where they resided 21 years ago. People move, addresses change [but] we live in the digital age where you can find almost anyone online these days. I was able to locate six of the families within a 10-minute search online. Furthermore, the report indicates that an attempt to find Aubrey Otgaar’s family was made by going to the location where the murders took place expecting to find his family living there.
Have you submitted victim impact statements to the Parole Board?
I submitted numerous victim impact statements on behalf of my family which were supposed to be included in the DCS report, but they have not been included. In fact, only the last page of my brother’s [Michael A Visser] victim impact statement was included in the report. DCS gives us the ability to have our say in the form of a victim impact statement but does not include it within the case files of the offender? This seems counterproductive! How am I to trust and have faith that our case will be treated with care?
What about the survivor, Quinton Taylor?
Within the same report, Quinton was not listed as a victim at all and therefore has been disregarded in this case. Instead, he was listed as a next of kin for Aubrey Otgaar.
Where does this leave you?
I’ve lost all faith in the department, all faith that they will handle a case of this magnitude with care and caution, especially where the offender is still deemed to be a risk to society and shows signs of psychotic mental disorders as per his diagnosis. I continue to ensure my heavy involvement in the case to ensure justice is done and the DCS is held accountable for their actions.
Leigh has dismissed claims by the DCS that they were unable to contact her mother to inform the family about the latest parole hearing because her address had changed. She says this is nonsense and that the address is the same one that the department used to contact her mother in the past.
Speaking to News 24, DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said that in the parole hearing, Woest “demonstrated lack of insight and self-awareness into his own criminal behaviour and the impact of his crime on the part of the victim.”