Leading South African Jewish Psychologist Brutally Murdered During Robbery


JOHANNESBURG (VosIzNeias) —  Mirah Wilks,a brilliant Jewish psychologist (69) who specialized in hate crime and violence in South Africa, was brutally butchered and had her throat slit in her own home by a gang of armed robbers. The intruders had waited until her husband Frank left to the local synagogue and then climbed on the roof, dropped into the house and stabbed her twelve times as well as cutting her throat.

Wilk’s husband Frank returned home from the synagogue Sunday night to find his wife of 45 years lying in a pool of blood.

Israeli-born Dr Wilks was renowned for her research into hate crimes, trauma and violence and was a highly respected former Chair of the Psychological Society of South Africa.

South African Police have launched a major man-hunt for the murderer who allegedly murdered her in her Johannesburg home just to steal two laptops and a mobile phone.

In a statement, her family said, “It is with deep sadness to confirm the passing of Mirah Wilks who was the victim of a violent crime that took place in her home in Sandown Estate on the morning of Sunday October 6, 2019. Mirah was stabbed by a solitary intruder who broke into the house through the roof and a struggle ensued in a passageway close to her study. The intruder fled the property with two laptops and one cell phone. Police are investigating the matter and we would like to provide them with support to conclude the case.”

A former art teacher who had made a career change to become a counsellor, Dr Wilks received her PhD in Hate Crimes from the University of South Africa last year after spending many years in South Africa as a top psychologist. Prior to this Dr. Wilks had lived in Australia before emigrating to South Africa. She had also gained degrees at the University of Queensland in Australia and the University of Pennsylvania in the USA and was working at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg when she was murdered.

Dr Wilks had recently started important research into ‘resilience as a means of adaption and survival’ with a special focus on South Africa’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Wilks had a special interest in resilience herself, having survived polio as a child as well as cancer in later life.

The Psychological Society of South Africa  published a poignant letter Dr Wilks had shared with her students, describing her experience as a polio survivor and Jewish refugee who had battled cancer.

‘Everyone has a story,’ Dr Wilks wrote. ‘I have often wondered how I survived, rebounded and found new pathways to health. What was the source of my ability to regenerate? Where was my source of hope and positivity? Did my attitude on life and my personality have anything to do with my experiences of resilience in adversity?’

Professor Juan Nel, a close friend of Dr Wilks and her dissertation supervisor, said that the Pyschological Society of South Africa was distraught after learning of her murder.

He said: ‘Dr Wilks was the victim of a violent crime that took place in her home and Mirah’s untimely death has left us with a deep sense of loss that will affect all of us here.

‘Mirah was known to a great many of her colleagues in the psychology fraternity and was a good soul and a person in the profession who had great integrity and honour’ he said.

Counselling psychologist Dr Ingrid Artus said: ‘We have a scarcity of psychologists in South Africa and the service they provide to society are vital and her loss will impact on patients.

‘The work that she was doing in SA was vital to helping a country such as ours. This will perpetuate the fear that many associate with crime. She will be greatly missed,’ she said.

Dr Dvir Abramovich, chair of the Anti-Defamation Commission, said the Israeli and Jewish community in Australia was “heartbroken and devastated by this savagery”. “We send our profound condolences to the family of Dr Wilks,” he said.

Dr. Wilks is survived by her husband Frank, her children, Tarryn and Brett and her grandchildren.


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