A technical high school rampage, the voice of the Joker, near beheadings, curved-bladed samurai swords, macabre clown masks, and Slipknot lead singer's Heath Ledger tattoo all merely seem to be incredibly coincidental cultural icons crashing together in one incident. Happenstance? Or enemy action?
On Monday, September 1, 2008, in Johannesburg, Morné Harmse, an 18-year-old matric pupil (one who is in the final year of high school in South Africa) allegedly killed a fellow student with a sword. Harmse apparently had envisioned a widespread bloodbath in his school.
The teenage attacker staged his deadly assault just before school assembly on Monday morning. He had left home dressed in his school uniform, including a red matric jersey and carrying four masks and three Samurai swords.
The teenager's masks were fashioned after those worn by members of the band Slipknot. One looked like a clown mask, one like a gas mask, one was red with black dreadlocks, and another was black.
He covered his face and neck in black paint and tried to convince his close friends to join him.
He carried out his attack before school started, slashing Pretorius across the neck.
"It looked like he beheaded him. I just ran when I saw him fall," said Pretorius's friend JC Welman.
One of Harmse's friends, Shaun Collins, 17, a grade-12 pupil at Nic Diederichs Technical High School in Krugersdorp, spoke with the media on Tuesday about how the schoolboy had told him and other friends what he planned to do.
"He wanted to wait until the children assembled in the hall and then kill them. He used the word 'massacre'; I understood he meant a bloodbath."
Minutes before the assembly began, Harmse put on a mask, pulled out a samurai sword and slashed open 16-year-old Jacques Pretorius's carotid artery. Some there reported that the victim was nearly beheaded by the act.
Harmse then walked around the school and apparently injured three other people - two workers Sam Namamela, 43, Joseph Kodisang, 26, and a grade-11 pupil Stephan Bouwer, 18. All were injured in the head.
Shaun told on Tuesday evening how he and his group of friends had seen the teenager "losing it". Shortly after Shaun arrived at school at about 07:10 am, three of his friends came to him and said Harmse's "head isn't right".
When Shaun and the others got to Harmse, he was already wearing his mask - similar to the one worn by Corey Taylor, the lead singer of the heavy metal band Slipknot.
Harmse was rearranging three swords, including a smallish Katana and a Sekizo Ninja sword, in his belt, and putting on gloves. He had apparently made the mask about three weeks before the attack.
"At first we thought he was joking but then we saw a bomb in his right hand," said schoolmate Shaun Collins.
It is believed he had been making bombs since last year.
"We kept our distance the whole time because we were really scared of him. I told him to put down the bomb but he refused. I took the bomb from his hand and threw it away. It didn't do anything. The whole time he was speaking with a weird voice, almost like the Joker's voice in Batman," Collins mentioned.
(Slipknot's Taylor has his own name tattooed in Russian on the right side of his body as well as a tattoo of Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp and Heath Ledger.)
"He also kept saying things like, 'Today I'm going to do it. Today is the massacre.'" Shaun said the boy then insisted that Max Brechlin, 18, also put on a mask.
The next moment he turned to Shaun and said, "Do you want to see something cool?"
He then pulled out his sword and Jacques - who happened to be walking past with a group of pupils - was hacked to death. "That sword was as blunt as a butter knife. I couldn't believe the force with which he struck. It was a very deep wound," Shaun said.
The pupils of his eyes apparently looked "smaller than usual". Shaun said he had noticed earlier that the pupil had two other masks in his school bag: a gas mask and a clown mask, similar to those worn by other members of Slipknot. Shaun and his friends also made similar masks and wore them at school on two occasions.
"I was very interested in Slipknot. The drummer is amazing; I would like to be able to play like him one day. But after I saw my friend? It's as if the music had changed him. I think about it very differently now," Shaun said.
The suspect will appear in Krugersdorp Magistrate's Court on Wednesday on a charge of murder and three charges of attempted murder. He will appear on charges of conspiracy to murder and possession of a dangerous weapon.
The lead singer of US metal band Slipknot thinks the Krugersdorp schoolboy who allegedly killed a fellow pupil and injured three others is ‘‘f****d up’’.
Yesterday, Corey Taylor finally broke the band’s silence on Monday’s schoolground slaying by speaking exclusively to the US music magazine Blender.
Earlier this week, the band’s label company, Roadrunner Records, refused to comment, but admitted they were aware of the incident.
Morné Harmse, 18, appeared in the Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday in connection with charges of murder and attempted murder following the samurai sword attack.
Harmse apparently had an obsession with the Grammy award-winning band, who are perhaps best known for the macabre masks they wear during shows.
The 18-year-old wore a similar mask when he allegedly attacked his fellow students, and had three more masks in a bag, together with three samurai swords.
In the magazine interview posted online, Taylor said Slipknot could not be blamed for people who are “f****d up and lost”.
He said he was ‘‘obviously’’ disturbed by the incident, but added the band could not take responsibility for what happened.
He was quoted as saying: “As far as my responsibility for that goes, it stops there, because I know our message is positive.”
He said that when the band was linked to violence in the past, such as the murder of a young man in California in 2003, he used to “sweat it really hard”.
‘‘But the thing I have to realise is the fact that I’m not encouraging anybody to kill anybody .”
South African radio presenter Barney Simon also said he did not believe the band could be blamed. "A disturbed youngster went on a violent rampage not because of Slipknot’s music, but because of other demons inside him," he told The Times in South Africa.
And the plot thickens. Somewhere, someone is scratching their head thinking, "Wow. This is going far further than we expected."
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