AN INSIDE JOB

Words by Caroline Hillary
Pictures by Joanne Olivier

I would like to say that The Nasrec Serial Killer was just a phase in my life – a year-long phase that saw me visiting the Leeuwkop Maximum Security Prison in Johannesburg regularly and spending time with families, friends and victims of this notorious murderer.

It was all in the name of researching and interviewing the man that would later become the subject of a documentary I would make with Johann Vorster called ‘The Blackheart Diaries’.
It went on to be sold and aired on the Fox Crime and Crime Investigation Channels for the better part of three years.

As much as I would like to say this was just a phase, it’s hard to cut someone out of your life when they have decided you are someone they enjoy knowing.

Now, almost four years later on Monday morning, I just put the phone down from the weekly hello from a prison cell.

Lazarus Mazingane, aka The Nasrec Serial Killer, was an easy subject to interview as his desperation to show the world how he’d changed shined brighter than any shame for his crimes. Determined to talk about how far he’d come, he wasn’t afraid to dip into the dark part of his life that made him so notorious – strangling and shooting 14 people and raping a further 23.

Polite and well read, he bordered on shy initially as he welcomed me into his world. As the months wore on, his reservation was replaced with warm hugs and little nicknames for me as he opened up and shared his daily challenges of prison life with me.

At this stage, despite the words coming out of his mouth and the gruesome police files I’d poured through for hours on end, it became harder to see him as a monster and easier to see him as a person – despite knowing full well what he was capable of.
The human mind has an uncanny ability to live in the moment and I often found myself laughing and chatting away like old friends with him and patiently listening to him while he cried about the lives he had taken.

I know he is manipulative, I know he is a dangerous man – I know that should he be paroled, I’d probably get a visit, despite how many stamps and airtime vouchers I have bought him.
This stuff scares me. I wont lie about that. But while he’s in jail there is nothing I can do and I’m certainly not going to torment myself regarding possibilities. For now, all I can do is take his calls, make small talk and help him where I can.

Joanne and I worked on this together and here we showcase some of the images she took that day that show his life in a Maximum Security prison.