Two fancy new cellphones– the value of a young South African woman’s life, at least according to the hitman that reportedly requested only R30 000 to take the life of Jade Panayiotou. Police suspect Jade’s husband of masterminding the death of his own wife in a case that is eerily reminiscent of the (alleged) 2010 Dewani spousal liquidation vacation. In both cases the monetary value of person’s life would be determined by men willing to prematurely end it for a nominal fee.
The history of hitmen stretches back as far as man’s impatience with the natural lifecycle of another, and his willingness to pay for the shortening thereof. Surprisingly, however, there is hardly any data available on contract killings (besides in Australia), despite the cash-for-corpses businesses being lucrative enough to lure Woody Harrelson’s father into the trade.
But exactly how lucrative is it to be a modern day hitman, or alternatively, how much value is put on taking someone’s life in the 21st century? Figures seem to differ significantly from country to country. In South Africa, the Panayioutou and Dewani cases reportedly involved hitman asking R30 000 and R15 000 respectively, but a Pretoria woman in the year 2000 confessed to paying as little as R5 700 for two men to strangle her long-time lover. However, compared to the cost of contract killers in other countries, South Africa seems practically overpriced. A comparison of 15 countries, with readily available public data recording the cost of hitmen, shows South Africa to be only the 6th lowest by cost. By far the most affordable on the list is India and Mexico where ensuring the issue of a premature death certificate will cost you a mere R350. In Russia a hit costs the equivalent of a 2 bottles of quality vodka (R1000) while in sunnier climes a deep tissue projectile massage courtesy of a Philippines Death Squad will set you back an affordable R1 100. Surprisingly, even in the United Kingdom people are willing to permanently expatriate friend or foe to the afterlife for less than a R4000. India and Russia have already been mentioned, but procuring information on the cost of contract killers in Brazil and China, our other two BRICS compatriots, proves difficult. However, with the Brazilian populace, at least the tiny, homicidal part, evidently placing as little value on a human life as their South African counterparts (Brazil has 25 homicides per 100,000 people compared to South Africa’s 28) it is expected that Brazilian hitmen will probably be equally inexpensive. Reports on the pricing structures of Chinese contract killers are also sparse, unless you intend to hire a hitmen to murder an artificial online persona. On the opposite end of the scale there are countries where contract killers are prohibitively expensive, at least for the man on the street, such as Spain (R270 000 – R690 000) and Australia (R136 000 – R830 000). Meanwhile in France, the price for the precipitation of a Monaco real estate heiresses’ obituary reaches R3 300 000. Lastly, in American, bigger is better is a motto that evidently remains true even in the hiring of assassins – a trio of American snipers will gladly arrange the most decadent of send-offs for R8 000 000.
Besides the relative costliness of the South African hitman, an analysis of the nine most high profile cases of reported contract killings in South Africa (see below for data) since 1994 also provides the following interesting insights into how South Africa’s murderers-for-hire prefer to kill their victims and who is most likely to hire them. In 66% of the cases guns still remain the weapon of choice for the discerning professional. Others prefer the surgical precision of a razor sharp blade (11%) and some are even unafraid of literally getting their hands dirty (11%). And then there is the one particularly cruel and heartless killer that burnt his victim alive in the boot of his own car. In this particular case it was the wife who was convicted, and eventually sentenced to life in prison, for arranging the murder of her husband, a situation which is no exception in the world of South African contract killings – 45% of victims are murdered under order of their own spouses. A chilling statistic for any soon-to-be-weds.
In conclusion, arranging the murder of another, especially someone as supposedly dear as the person publicly promised your unending love and cherishment, indicates an extraordinary poverty of conscience, but wherever in the world you may find jilted lovers, wronged business partners or greedy spouses, there too will you find another – one who is willing to shoot, stab, strangle or burn alive a fellow human being for a the price of fancy phone.
Comparative cost of lowest and highest recorded contract killing fees across 15 countries.
|South Africa||5700||30 000|
|Argentina||37 490||55 550|
|Australia||136 100||830 000|
|Bolivia||40 000||150 000|
|Colombia||20 000||40 000|
|France – Monaco||3 300 000|
|India – Mumbia||350||9 000|
|Italy – Mafia Hitmen||270 000|
|Mexico||350 (850 to hire a teenage boy)||200 000(to target police chief)|
|Philippines death Squad||1 100||1 100|
|Spain||270 000||690 000|
|UK||3500||1 800 000|
|US||50 000 (US soldier)||8 000 000 (3 army snipers)|
|Russia||3000||1 500 000|
|Brazil||No readily available sources||No readily available sources|
|China||Difficult to find, but father did hire an online hitman||2 800 000|
Top 9 most prolific cases of contract killings in South Africa since 1994.
|Date||Victim||Method of Killing||Spouse Ordered Killing|
|03/05/2010||Emmanual “Lolly” Jackson||Shooting||No|
|06/11/2006||Avhatakali Netshisaulu||Burned Alive||Yes|