The trial of a policewoman accused of murdering five relatives and a boyfriend to cash in on insurance claims has captivated South Africa, struck by her brass in the face of blood-curdling allegations.
Eyebrows raised in defiance, Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu, 46, sat nonchalantly in the dock of a Johannesburg court on Monday, hair pinned into two lopsided buns.
A formerly respected cop, she has puzzled South Africans with her frivolous court behaviour, pulling faces and throwing peace signs at cameras.
Prosecutors have compiled a chilling litany of evidence against her.
Between 2012 and 2017, they say, her cousin, sister, boyfriend, niece, nephew and another relative were found dead — bludgeoned, strangled or shot.
Ndlovu is the main suspect behind their murders, accused of taking out life and funeral insurance in the victims’ names and claiming the money after their death.
Her trial has kept South Africans glued to their television screens since it kicked off in mid-September.
Ndlovu walked confidently into the courtroom on Monday in shiny black heels and a green dress, grey shawl wrapped around her shoulders.
She denies any wrongdoing.
“I am not the person who took out my (murdered) sister’s insurance policies,” she said in Tsonga through a translator, crunching up her nose as the prosecutor pushed on with the cross-examination.
Twitter has been abuzz with screenshots of Ndlovu’s blasé expressions and thickly painted eyebrows twisted into odd shapes.
Initially relishing the media attention, she turned aggressive last week and hurled potato chips at photographers, prompting police to leg-shackle her.
She has teared up several times in court, particularly at the mention of her late boyfriend.
The trial has been adjourned on two occasions after she complained of dizziness and chest pains.
“It’s not your typical South African raping and killing serial murderer,” forensic psychologist Gerard Labuschagne told AFP via telephone. “It’s a woman, she’s a cop, and (almost) all her victims were family members.”
Investigators allege Ndlovu made around 1.4 million rand ($93,000) from her bloody deeds.
She has been charged with several counts of murder, conspiracy and fraud.
The affidavit contains hair-raising details of her alleged modus operandi.
While hitmen are suspected to have carried out most of the dirty work, Ndlovu is said to have personally taken care of her sister Audrey: poisoning her tea before strangling her.
She was caught red-handed in 2018, when one of her hitmen tipped off the police after she hatched a plan to burn down the house of another sister, prosecutors said.
The fire would have torched the woman and her five children, including a five-month- old baby, knocked out by sleeping pills, their mouths stuffed with socks to avoid screaming.
It proved too horrific even for a professional killer.
Days earlier, a different hitman faltered at the sight of Ndlovu’s elderly mother. He renounced the job, asked the frail lady for a cup of water, and left the house.