Queer Books: Sizzlers – The Hate Crime That Tore Sea Point Apart


The first sign that something was wrong was a garbled call for help in the early morning of 20 January 2003. The petrol attendants at the Total garage in Sea Point initially thought the man stumbling and dragging himself toward them was drunk. But they soon realized that the 20-year-old Quinton Taylor, with brown packing tape wrapped around his face, was severely injured, blood pouring from his head and a gash in his throat.

Not long after, Captain Naude of the South African Police Service entered Sizzlers, a gay massage parlour, and found a scene of such horror that it shocked him to his core. Nine people had been brutally murdered, their hands and feet tied, their throats slashed, and each shot in the head. It was the most brutal and shocking anti-queer hate crime in the history of South Africa.

Now, 21 years later, Nicole Engelbrecht of the True Crime South Africa podcast has written a book about that fateful night when Adam Woest and Trevor Theys committed what the presiding judge described as “a crime of unparalleled savagery.”

Having read this book, I was struck by how Engelbrecht avoids sensationalism, instead methodically relating the facts with great empathy for the victims and their families. As each chapter unfolds, examining what happened from different perspectives, she lays bare the horrors of that night so effectively that it haunts you long after you finish reading.

Engelbrecht’s in-depth research and attention to detail make this an exceptional read. She guides the reader through the labyrinth of facts, drawing from witness accounts, confessions, and interviews with several people associated with the case, while striving to uncover the true motive behind these heinous killings. Her interviews with victims’ families, particularly Leigh Visser, sister of Warren Visser, add a deeply personal layer to the narrative.

Warren Visser was just 22-years-old when he was killed in the Sizzlers massacre

Engelbrecht deftly ties all the different narratives together, weaving a comprehensive picture of what led up to the horrors of that night, how the police eventually captured the two perpetrators, and bringing the story into the present as Adam Woest becomes eligible for parole.

Her writing is factual and to the point, yet with an emotional depth that leaves you reeling as you form a picture in your mind of what those nine young men went through on that fateful night. The images she conjures up in the pages of this book will keep you awake till late at night, imagining how much they must have suffered.

Her systematic breakdown of everything that transpired, especially the hunt, arrest, and subsequent sentencing of the two killers, does not try in any way to glorify the killers. She constantly probes what might have motivated them, dispelling many of the theories and speculations that swirled around at the time of the case.

While she obviously has admiration for the police investigation, there’s much to be said about how the Department of Correctional Services has failed the families of the victims. She ends the book with a case for reforming the parole system.

Trevor Theys died a few years after being sent to prison for life. What is concerning is that Adam Woest, who has never shown any remorse for his actions, may be released on parole sometime soon. There is no indication that he has been reformed in any way. Highlighting this case now is a way to galvanize action to block any attempts at his release on parole. We know that criminals like this are more likely than not to repeat their offenses, so we as the LGBTQ+ community should take the necessary action to stop his release and keep him firmly locked up.

This book is a must-read. It is absolutely riveting, yet written with such understanding and insight that it puts this case front and centre of our attention at this crucial time. It sets the standard for how we should tell the stories of the countless other victims who have suffered hate crimes and been victims of crimes in general in this troubled country.

It has been more than two decades since that gruesome event. Let us remember their names: Timothy Boyd, Sergio de Castro, Stephanus Fouché, Johan Meyer, Marius Meyer, Travis Reade, Warren Visser Gregory Berghaus, Aubrey Otgaar.

You can take action by signing this petition opposing the release of Adam Woest.

Sizzlers – The Hate Crime That Tore Sea Point Apart by Nicole Engelbrecht is published by Melinda Ferguson Books and is available at leading bookstores.

Review by Hendrik Baird. Hendrik is is an experienced media professional with over 35 years in the performance arts, having contributed significantly to developmental arts and human rights activism in South Africa. He co-founded Baird Media (Pty) Ltd and holds a master’s degree in media and journalism, with a focus on online radio and podcasting. Find him in on LinkedIn.

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