William Unek

William Unek was a Belgian Congo police constable and mass murderer, spree killer, and serial killer who killed a total of 57 people in two separate spree killings three years apart.

William Unek
William Unek

c. 1929 (1929)
Died11 February 1957 (aged 27–28)
Cause of deathSevere burns from a smoke bomb thrown by police
11 February 1957
Location(s)Mahagi, Belgian Congo
Malampaka, Tanganyika Territory
Target(s)Random strangers
Lee-Enfield Rifle

Murder spreesEdit

His first murder spree occurred near Mahagi, Belgian Congo in 1954, where he killed 21 people with an axe within an hour and a half, before escaping and finally ending up in British Tanganyika Territory.[1][2]

Apparently because of social misunderstandings[clarification needed] with his boss,[3] 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 mi (64 km) 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.[4][5][6] 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,[7] as well as the wife of a police sergeant.[8]

Manhunt and deathEdit

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.[4][9]

Despite the extensive search operation, including dogs and aircraft,[10] and a posted reward of $350,[11] Unek eluded his pursuers until he finally showed up at the house of Iyumbu ben Ikumbu, who lived only 2 miles (3.2 km) away from Malampaka, in search of food. When Iyumbu 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 1:00 a.m. the next day. Iyumbu, 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, Iyumbu ran out of his house whereupon a Police Superintendent threw a smoke bomb, setting the house on fire. Unek, severely injured when attempting to evade capture, later succumbed to his wounds in hospital.[5][12] Iyumbu later received a financial reward of £125,[13] as well as the British Empire Medal for his bravery leading to the capture of the constable.[14][15]


As response to the murders, a fund was created to help the descendants of those killed[16] and a maternity clinic was built as a memorial for Unek's victims.[17]

His rampage ranks among the deadliest of the twentieth century.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Times (March 28, 1957)
  2. ^ itscshii (2021-01-09). "The African Berserker: William Unek". Colour Of Crime. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  3. ^ Madulu, Ndalahwa F.: Changing Lifestyles in Farming Societies of Sukumaland: Kwimba District, Tanzania; Afrika-Studiecentrum, Leiden (1998) (p. 25)
  4. ^ a b African killer still at large, The Times (February 16, 1957)
  5. ^ a b "Supplement to the London Gazette" (PDF). London Gazette. October 4, 1957.
  6. ^ Berserk Slayer of 36 Sought, The New York Times (February 17, 1957)
  7. ^ "A place where no vulture fly". The Singapore Free Press. March 1, 1957.
  8. ^ 32nd slaying, The Ottawa Citizen (February 14, 1957)
  9. ^ "Mass Killer Caught". The Straits Times. February 21, 1957.
  10. ^ Constable Runs Amok In Africa, Kills 32, Corpus Christi Times (February 14, 1957)
  11. ^ Murders 32, Greensburg Daily News (February 13, 1957)
  12. ^ Greatest Murderer In Criminal History, Lethbridge Herald (March 30, 1957)
  13. ^ Reward for Courage, East Africa and Rhodesia, Volume 33; London, (March 21, 1957)
  14. ^ George Medal for African Constable, East Africa And Rhodesia, Volume 34; London, (October 24, 1957)
  15. ^ A Royal Reward, Jet (January 9, 1958)
  16. ^ News Items in Brief; East Africa and Rhodesia, Volume 33; London, (April 25, 1957)
  17. ^ Annual Report of the Provincial Commissioners for the year 1958; Government Printer, 1959.

External linksEdit