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William Unek

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Title: William Unek  
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Subject: Mass murder, Woo Bum-kon
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William Unek

William Unek
Died 1957
Cause of death Severe burns
Occupation Constable
Date 1954
February 11, 1957
Location(s) Mahagi, Belgian Congo
Malampaka, Tanganyika Territory
Target(s) Random strangers
Killed 57
Injured At least 30
Weapon(s) Axe

William Unek was an African police constable and mass murderer who killed a total of 57 people in two separate spree killings three years apart.

His first murder spree occurred near Mahagi, Belgian Congo in 1954, where he killed 21 people with an axe, before escaping and finally ending up in British occupied Tanganyika Territory.[1]

Apparently because of social misunderstandings with his boss,[2] Unek went on a second rampage which began in the early hours of February 11, 1957. Armed with a stolen police rifle, 50 rounds of ammunition and an axe, he started killing people in the area of Malampaka, a village about 40 miles southeast of Mwanza.

Within twelve hours Unek shot dead ten men, eight women and eight children, murdered five more men with the axe, stabbed another one, burned two women and a child and strangled a 15-year-old girl, thus killing a total of 36 people.[3][4][5] He then changed out of his police uniform into clothes stolen from one of his victims and fled. Among the dead was reportedly his own wife, whom he killed in their hut, before setting it on fire,[6] as well as the wife of a police sergeant.[7]

For nine days Unek was sought by Wasukuma tribesmen, police, and eventually a company of the King's African Rifles in Tanganyika's greatest manhunt up to that time.[3][8]

Despite the extensive search operation, including dogs and aircraft,[9] and a posted reward of $350,[10] Unek eluded his pursuers, until he finally showed up at the house of lymumbu ben Ikumu, who lived only two miles away from Malampaka, in search for food. When Iymumbu reported the incident to police, he was asked to keep Unek with him and notify them, should the killer come again to his home. Unek, still armed, reappeared at about 1 a.m. the next day. Iymumbu, sending his wife to police, gave Unek food and engaged in a conversation with him for nearly two hours until help arrived. At that point Iymumbu ran out of his house whereupon a Police Superintendent threw a smoke bomb, setting the house on fire. Unek, injured when attempting to evade capture, later succumbed to his wounds in hospital.[4][11] Iymumbu later received a financial reward of £125,[12] as well as the British Empire Medal for his bravery leading to the capture of the constable.[13][14]

As response to the murders a fund was created to help the dependants of those killed[15] and a maternity clinic was built as a memorial for Unek's victims.[16]

His rampage ranks among the deadliest of the twentieth century.


External links

  • Hunt crazed killer of 36, The Windsor Daily Star (February 16, 1957)
  • The Calgary Herald (February 19, 1957)
  • Saskatoon Star-Phoenix (March 28, 1957)
  • Hamburger Abendblatt (March 28, 1957)
  • Public Order, Colonial, Issues 339-342 (1958)
  • Council Debates: Official Report (1957)
  • Report by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the Administration of Tanganyika (1957)
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