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SA double murderer who filmed victim’s torture in US ‘lied’ to become a citizen there

SA double murderer who filmed victim’s torture in US ‘lied’ to become a citizen there
Convicted murderer Brian Steven Smith. (Photo: YouTube)

A convicted double murderer from South Africa allegedly lied about his criminal background in the US so he could become a citizen of that country – where he killed two women. He now faces fresh charges for making false statements.

One crime – cellphone theft – led to a murder being uncovered. Which led to the discovery of another killing.

This ripple effect continued even after the man at the centre of it, Brian Steven Smith (52), of the Eastern Cape, was convicted of murdering two Alaskan native women in the US.

He is now also facing charges there for allegedly lying to obtain naturalisation in the US – in other words, to become a citizen.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘26s gang may kill me if you send me home’ — UK drug convict fights SA deportation

Daily Maverick recently reported on a few cases of South Africans convicted of crimes abroad and what may happen, or has happened, to them since.

‘False statements’

Smith’s developing matter now adds to those.

The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska issued a statement last month detailing the new allegations against him.

“According to court documents, between June and September 2019, [Smith] applied for and obtained naturalisation in the US by making false statements in connection to his naturalisation application,” it said.

“Smith allegedly falsely responded to questions asking whether he had been involved in killing, badly hurting or sexually assaulting someone and if he had ever committed, assisted in committing or attempted to commit a crime he was not arrested for. 

“Smith answered ‘no’ to all these questions, when at the time of the application, he had committed related crimes, including two murders that involved torture and sexual assaults.”

He was therefore accused of unlawfully obtaining naturalisation in the US.

If convicted of the fresh charges relating to him allegedly lying, Smith will lose that US naturalisation status.

‘Stolen phone’ and murder footage

Issues surrounding him stretch back several years.

According to the US’ Anchorage Police Department, on 30 September 2019, a citizen called officers to say they had found “an SD card containing a video of a homicide”.

It was later reported, though, that a woman had stolen Smith’s cellphone and copied the footage onto the memory card when she realised what it was.

The Anchorage police statement continued: “The SD card contained several videos which appeared to show the assault and subsequent homicide of an adult female. Detectives with the Homicide Unit were notified and began an investigation.”

It was established the crime took place in the first week of September 2019 and Smith became a suspect.

Human remains

The following month, October 2019, human remains, suspected to be the woman attacked in the video, were found near a highway.

Smith was arrested.

According to a State of Alaska law department press statement from February 2024, the remains were identified as those of Kathleen Henry.

“While he was being questioned, Smith admitted to killing a second victim, a year prior. That woman was identified as Veronica Abouchuk,” it said.

According to an Anchorage Police Department social media post from July 2019, Abouchuk was at that stage still reported missing.

She had been homeless, and her family last saw her in July 2018.

“Abouchuk was last seen at Bean’s Café [in Anchorage] in October 2018.  Family’s efforts to locate Abouchuk have been unsuccessful,” the 2019 Anchorage police post said.

double murderer Alaska

Kathleen Henry is one of two women murdered by South African Brian Smith in the US. (Photo: Supplied)

Veronica Abouchuk

Veronica Abouchuk was killed by Brian Smith. (Photo: Supplied)

Double killing and torture

In February this year Smith was convicted of murdering both Henry and Abouchuk.

According to Alaska’s Department of Law, he was also found guilty of “sexual assault in the second degree, tampering with evidence and misconduct involving a corpse”.

It was found that Smith subjected Henry “to substantial physical torture”.

Henry’s Facebook profile is public and posts on it suggest she was trying to improve her life in the run-up to her murder.

One post, from August 2019, stated: “I need to get my life straight and act together.”

Henry’s final publicly visible post from later that month included rattling hash-tagged words.

It said: “I’m tough Alaska chick since 1997 until present. Keeping up with the kardashians can be mine for life. #killerandchiller”

‘Everyone dies’

In March this year, reporting on matters including the convictions against Smith, an Alaska Public Media article detailed how the footage from the memory card played a key role in the case against him.

The article stated: “The card, labelled ‘Homicide at midtown Marriot’, came from a sex worker, who told [cops] she found it on the ground. 

“It had footage of Kathleen Henry’s torture and murder – and in the background, Smith’s chipper voice with his South African accent, gleefully narrating the footage, as he taunted Henry for being too slow to die. ‘In my movies, everyone dies,’ he said.

“Only the jury, attorneys and court staff saw the footage, but everyone in the room heard the sound.”

Valerie Casler, the woman who took Smith’s cellphone and saved footage from it, later told a court that the accent of the attacker stood out for her.

In apparent audio from the footage, aired on the US network Court TV, a man with a South African accent can be heard repetitively saying, in a sing-song voice: “You live. You die.” 

The man also says: “Sadly, in my movies, everyone dies.”

At another point he addresses someone, presumably a dying Henry, saying: “You fucked up my drinking time.”

Ninety-nine-year jail possibility

Smith faces 99 years in jail for Henry’s killing and between 30 and 99 years behind bars for murdering Abouchuk.

He is expected to be sentenced on 12 and 19 July this year.

It is while facing sentencing that he has been accused of lying to obtain naturalisation in the US.

This all means that he could lose his US citizenship – and he stands to serve several years behind bars for the two killings.

An individual with the same name, Brian Smith, who said he had lived in Alaska and had been in South Africa from 1971 to 2013, was previously active on the online Quora platform – a question-and-answer-style website.

While the account under the name “Brian Smith” was labelled as banned on Quora, questions and answers linked to it can still be viewed.

Expat from South Africa

One of many questions Smith replied to was: “Are there poor white communities in South Africa?”

His response was: “Most whites are poor. I grew up poor. While the blacks got free housing and free education and free medical, the whites have to pay. This kept whites poor.”

In response to another question, Smith stated in part: “I am an expat SA living in Alaska, USA.”

A reply to a question about whether “you faced racism in your life” read: “I am a white male. I face racism every day. I am blamed for things I could never have done. I am punished for things that never happened. I have to pay tax to feed lazy people.” DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Colin K says:

    I can understand why his wife never saw it coming. Just under 20 years ago I was still in High School and Brian and my Mom dated for a few months. If there was one word I would have used to describe Brian, it would have been “meek”. He was soft-spoken, kind and friendly any time he was around. There was never any hint of what was to come.

    It’s strange looking at photos of Brian with us from then. Makes one wonder who in one’s life has these hidden darknesses.

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