Tanya Farber’s Blood on Her Hands tell the stories of South Africa’s most infamous female killers. And it ia fascinating read. Irna Van Zyl spoke to the author.

Tell us more about Blood on Her Hands. Whose idea was it, why female killers and what can a reader expect from the book? 

I had written an in-depth feature on the topic for the Sunday Times, and then it became clear there was a whole book on this topic waiting to be written.

I specifically focused on female killers because they only make up 5% of all killers, and are thus more intriguing, and secondly, research has shown that they generally operate very differently to their male counterparts.

They are more meticulous in their planning, and less impulsive  and that is far more interesting. 

What the reader can expect from the book, are nine gruelling stories of murder most foul, but written in such a way that the reader is taken into the mind, heart and life of the killer herself.

We have, among others, Daisy de Melker with her poisonous flask of coffee, Marlene Lehnberg, who killed her loverwife with a pair of scissors, Chané van Heerden, who skinned her victimface off, and Phoenix Racing Cloud Theron, who pretended to hug her mother, but was in fact killing her. 

How and where did you do your research? 

The research was intensive and took place over several months. The richest sources of information were court records which leave no stone unturned. 

You were personally upset by the baby-killer Dina Rodriques. Tell us more about it? 

One imagines that even the most hardened heart would draw the line at a small baby, and yet, Rodrigues was so obsessed with creating the perfect life for herself that she never stopped to consider the innocence of her victim, or the fact that she would end up in jail (the antithesis of a perfect life).

Even her one young hitman could not bring himself to kill Baby Jordan, yet she had no compunction about organising the hit. 

You are a journalist. Tell us about yourself and your career. 

I love writing, and I love journalism. It is in my bones. I have worked across different genres simply because I love stories. I began as a film critic and film reporter.

I then worked for many years in the field of socialjustice journalism, and I am currently the senior science reporter at the Sunday Times.

I have won local and international awards (two for humanrights journalism from the European Union), but the most rewarding of all is still loving the work I do after almost 20 years of doing it! 

Which killer’s story intrigued you the most and why? 

Although it was the most harrowing to write, I was most intrigued by the Joey Haarhoff story. She has always been portrayed as the sidekick or mistress to paedophile Gert van Rooyen.

My chapter on her is, I believe, the first time this story has been told with her in the foreground as a cold-blooded criminal with agency over what she did.

I was also drawn in because I was the same age as her victims at the time, and lived in that area of South Africa. We were terrified.