Friday, June 9, 2023

South Africa hunts for convicted murderer released from prison

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) – South African police have launched a search for convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester, who escaped from a privately run maximum security prison in Free State province under strange circumstances.

Bester, known as the “Facebook rapist”, was found guilty in 2012 of raping two women and murdering one after luring them with the social media platform. In March last year, authorities said he had died after a fire broke out in his cell at Mangaung Correctional Centre, near Bloemfontein.

But now it seems Bester escaped his cell amid the fires and is living comfortably in the posh Hyde Park suburb of Johannesburg.

According to information first revealed by South African news outlet Groundup and confirmed by police, the burnt body in the cell was not Bester according to DNA results. Autopsy results determined that the man found dead in the cell died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head prior to the fire.

It appears that the fire was part of Bester’s elaborate prison escape which has raised many questions about the possible involvement of prison officials.

“A case of murder is being investigated following the results of DNA analysis, which confirmed that the body of the deceased was not that of Thabo Bester,” said police spokesman Motansi Makhele.

He said that the identity of the person found dead in the cell is yet to be ascertained.

Makhele said that the case of escape from lawful custody has also been opened as the prison authorities have confirmed that Bester is not in their custody.

“A search has been launched for all the persons of interest in this particular case,” he added.

According to media reports, Bester has been spotted shopping in the upmarket Sandton area of ​​Johannesburg and has been romantically linked to a prominent celebrity doctor.

As Groundup reports, Bester used a laptop to study while in prison to run an events and production company. At one point, he addressed a conference from his jail cell wearing a tie and told other attendees he was speaking from the US, the report said.

According to South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services, Mangaung Prison is currently run by UK-based private security firm G4S, which was awarded a contract to operate the facility until 2026. The department has no intention of renewing the contract, it said in a statement.

Correctional Service spokesman Singbakho Nxumalo said “no stone will be spared in getting to the bottom of Thabo Bester’s escape and there will be serious consequences for any parties involved.”

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