Sunday, April 14, 2013

Southeast Asia's Serial Killers (part six): The Killer Witch Doctor of Indonesia

Indonesia has this reputation of being the country in Southeast Asia where people are the most scare of being killed, injured or sick through the use of black magic. The government is even trying to pass a law that would consider the use of black magic illegal. "People guilty of using black magic to cause "someone's illness, death, mental or physical suffering" will face jail and financial fines. Even claiming to have the power to cast dark spells would become a criminal offence, and if the magic was performed for financial fain, the penalty would increase by one third. "White" magic would remain legal." (source: The Sydney Morning Herald, March 8, 2013 in the article "Push to make 'black magic' a crime in Indonesia by Michael Bachelard)

But what about people who kill to be granted "White" magic powers?

Ahmad Suradji was a cattle breeder, a well known witch-doctor (a dukun or healer) like his father, and a serial killer. Also named Nasib Datuk Kelewang or Datuk Maringgi (Datuk being an honorific title reserved to a community leader that deals with traditions and community affairs), he was trusted for guidance such as money, love and health.

Young women were believed to have been seeking his help in making their husbands or boyfriends faithful. But the father of one of these girls alerted the police after his daughter went to see him, and strangely disappeared. The police arrested Ahmad Surajdi on May 2nd, 1997, after bodies were discovered near his home on the outskirts of Medan, the capital of North Sumatra.

During his interrogation, he told the police that he had a dream in 1988 in which his father's ghost told him to kill 70 women and drink their saliva, so that he could become a mystic healer. He admitted killing 42 girls and women over a period of 11 years. The victims ranged from 11 to 30 years old.

He would lead them to a nearby sugarcane plantation, and bury them up to their waist as part of the ritual, while chanting and reciting incantations. He would then strangle them with a cable, and collect their saliva. He would finally bury them entirely with their heads facing his house, so that it would  give him extra powers.

His 3 wives - all sisters - were also arrested for assisting in the murders and helping to hide the bodies. One of them was tried as his accomplice.

Ahmad Suradji (10/01/1949 - 10/07/2008)

This story is as monstrous as it is interesting. If you are part of a magical community or practice magic, you know that there are different types of magic, and whether black, white or pink, the type of magic always reflects the ideas and motivations of the practitioner. It is the same with serial killers: most of the people who kill other people for magical powers always do it for raw power, immortality, to please the demons or Satan, so to say either for dark or purely selfish reasons. Here we have a man who commits the ultimate inhuman act and sin in every religion and even magical practice, to claim powers "of the light", as the powers to heal are definitely powers to do good.

So what happened? Unfortunately, I don't have enough elements (yes I know, again!) to really sort out what his unconscious motivations were. So the following analysis relates more my impressions than an empiric analysis of his criminal behavior.

Many of the sources that I read on the Internet about Ahmad Suradji like to claim that he suffered from a mental illness, and I even read that some psychiatrists thought so too. Well, I don't really think so as it makes no sense to me to kill people to gain powers to do good and be able to heal others. People are relying on the fact that he had a dream about his father who told him to kill.

- The fact that he acted on what the ghost of his father told him in dream could indicate that he is (according to the Holmes, Holmes and DeBurger classification of serial killers) a visionary serial killer, killing at the command of hallucinated external or internal voices or visions that they experience. But many criteria don't fit his profile:
- they leave behind chaotic crime scenes (his murders were highly ritualistic, organized as he buried his victims)
- they often leave behind an abundance of physical evidence (there was no evidence as he was killing women for 11 years without even raising suspicion)
- their victims seem to fit no comprehensible pattern (he was very selective of his victims in terms of gender, vulnerability and even according to the fact that most of them were to ashamed to tell their families and friends they were going to see a witch-doctor)
- because mental illnesses such as schizophrenia often manifest in late adolescence or early adulthood, visionary killers are often young ( he was 39 when he started killing)
- there is no clear method or motive to their crimes (he killed in a very ritualistic manner, and the motive seems to be recurrent)

-the second way to analyze would be to just have a look at the crimes. So what do we know?
- he kills in a very ritualistic way, following the same MO and even using the same ritualistic way to dispose of the victims, posing them in their graves (naked and facing his house)
- he would use the same method to kill his victims, strangling them with a cable after burying them up to their waist
- he would rely on his position as datuk and the charisma of being a witch-doctor to attract his victims and lure them to their death
- his victims are selected according to very precise criteria (all women, most of them prostitutes, who would not lead the authorities to him as they haven't told anybody about their visit at his home)
- he seems to be highly controlled and controlling, as he killed for 11 years with the help of his 3 wives without raising any suspicion

So I don't think that Ahmad Suradji was mentally ill and killed women to gain magical and healing powers after his father's ghost came to him in a dream and told him to do so. At the contrary, I believe that he was in total control of what he was doing, and after carefully selecting his victims, he would find pleasure in following a strict ritual where he could derive pleasure in rendering his victims helpless (even with their own consent) and enjoy playing god by watching them die by his own hands. For me, he is an organized psychopath who took pleasure in the power and control he had on his victims. Even the fact that he would claim that he killed after his father told him in a dream could be interpreted as a way to use his charisma to gain more popularity and media coverage, which also points towards a highly organized and intelligent serial killer with an above average sense of greatness.

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