William Unek

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William Unek
BornWilliam Unek
c. 1929
DiedFebruary 21, 1957 (aged 27)
Cause of deathSevere burns
DateJanuary 1, 1954
February 11, 1957
Location(s)Mahagi, Belgian Congo
Malampaka, Tanganyika Territory
Target(s)Random strangers
InjuredAt least 30
Lee-Enfield Rifle

William Unek (1929-February 21, 1957) was an African police constable and mass murderer who killed a total of 57 people in two separate spree killings three years apart.

Murder sprees[edit]

Unek worked as Police Constable or Police soldier in the Belgian Congo. His first murder spree occurred near Mahagi, Belgian Congo on January 1, 1954, where he killed 21 people and wounded many more with an axe in less than an hour and a half, before escaping and finally ending up in British Tanganyika Territory, where he assumed a false identity, found work and began a new life.[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 Enfield-type 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. He broke into several houses and shot anyone he saw inside.

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 by trapping them in their house and setting it on fire, 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]

Manhunt and death[edit]

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 Iyumbu ben Ikumbu, who lived only two miles away from Malampaka, in search for 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.[4][11] Iyumbu 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 descendants 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.


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

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