Police arrest Marondera serial killer and rapist linked to at least 11 murders

HARARE – A suspected serial killer who left a note for police detectives with Bible verses at one crime scene has been arrested over the rape and murders of seven women in Marondera, Mashonaland East.

Police say Bright Zhantali, 30, is believed to have killed an eighth woman in Macheke, and he has confessed to three other unsolved murders in Rusape, Mutare and Nyanga.

Zhantali, of Dandamira township in Concession, is originally from Chiweshe in Mashonaland Central.

Police say the seven murders were committed between January and March this year.

On January 15, Mercy Simairi, 28, was waiting at Dejagger bus stop on her way to Roughlands Farm where she intended to pick up mushrooms when Zhantali approached her and offered to accompany her.

Police say when they got to the farm, Zhantali tripped Simairi from behind and raped her. He allegedly chocked her until she was unconscious before picking up a stone and repeatedly hitting her on the head until she died.

Zhantali is alleged to have buried the body in a shallow pit before stealing the victim’s phone.

Three days later, on January 18, police say Zhantali identified his next victim – a 40-year-old prostitute named Chipo Gwese – at Tempest Bar in Hwedza.

The two walked together to Gwese’s home in nearby Ndudzo Village. Police say Zhantali did not leave Gwese’s bedroom for the whole day on January 19.

On January 20, at around 2AM, he allegedly strangled Gwese as she slept. She was found with her hands tied to her back with shoe laces.

He allegedly stole a phone, a gas tank and US$111 and left.

Days later, on January 22, police say Zhantali approached prostitute Betty Mlambo, 43, who was standing outside her home in the Dombotombo area of Marondera.

The two retreated to her room where they had sex.

Police say at around 2AM the following morning, Zhantali strangled Mlambo while she slept. He tied her hands with shoe laces from behind and covered the body in blankets before starting a fire. The body was burnt beyond recognition.

Zhantali allegedly stole the victim’s phone and US$120.

On February 7, police say Zhantali was sitting near the Mutare-Harare highway at around 3PM when he saw his next victim, Nelia Maringe, 44, who was reading a Bible a short distance away inside the Grasslands Research Farm.

Police say Maringe had left home after telling a neighbour that she was going for prayers, before fetching firewood.

Zhantali, according to police, approached Maringe and proposed love to her but was spurned.

He allegedly raped her and then struck her once on the head with an axe she intended to use to chop firewood. She died instantly.

Zhantali allegedly took a counter book from Maringe’s possessions and wrote inside: “Officers from CID Homicide read the whole of Proverbs 6 mutsure vakadzi vanohura vari pamurume. Bye. Maringo from Maisiri paWedza.”

He also allegedly tore off a page from the counter book and scribbled a note addressed “To Husband.”

It said: “Mark of the best after maths of chihure wakandirambirei this is just not manslaughter but a violent, brutal, toxic expression of love if not passion by ex-killer Maisiri paWedza.”

Zhantali allegedly stole the woman’s phone and left.

Sometime in February, police say a sex worker thought to be aged between 35 and 40 was approached by Zhantali at Chikaidos Bar, Nyameni Shops in Marondera.

The woman, who has not been identified after her body was found badly decomposed, allegedly told Zhantali that she was not comfortable going with him to her house because she lived with her young sister.

Zhantali allegedly lied that he lived at Paradise Park and they agreed to go to his house. While walking behind Cherutombo High School, police say Zhantali suddenly grabbed the woman from behind and raped her after which he strangled her.

Police say Zhantali dragged the woman’s body some 20 meters and threw it into a river. The body was discovered days later in a bad state of decomposition. Efforts are underway to identify the victim.

On March 11, at around 2PM, police say Zhantali was seated in a field at Hunyani Estates close to the Marondera Golf Course when he saw 61-year-old Meggie Kaomba of Cherutombo looking for firewood.

He allegedly walked up to her, grabbed her from behind and raped her. The victim was struck twice on the head with her own axe leading to her death. Zhantali allegedly took the axe and went away.

Just 24 hours later, police say Zhantali killed again, the victim this time 49-year-old Patricia Tsoka who lived near the Chawatama industrial site.

Police say Tsoka, a sex worker, was at Dombotombo shops when she agreed a transaction with Zhantali.

Police say Zhantali lied to Tsoka that he lived in Cherima, near Rakodzi High School, and persuaded her to walk with him.

Along the way, close to a swamp between Cherima and Yellow City, Zhantali allegedly grabbed the woman from behind and raped her. He subsequently strangled her and threw her body into the swamp.

Police say Zhantali has told them of an eighth murder in Macheke, and “efforts are currently underway to locate the body.”

“The accused person has also indicated that he committed murders in Rusape, Mutare and Nyanga. The respective stations have since been advised and investigations are in progress,” national police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said.

Zhantali was arrested at around 9PM on Saturday, police say with the help of mobile phone data from Econet and NetOne.

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