A convicted rapist in South Africa has gone on the run after faking his own death in a jailbreak that has rocked the country. In May of last year, Thabo Bester was thought to have committed suicide by setting himself on fire in a private prison in Bloemfontein.
According to the BBC, citing state broadcaster SABC, a representative for the Department of Correctional Services said, “He was discovered at about 03:35 [Tuesday] morning, where his cell was burnt, he was found on the floor,”
But, over the weekend, authorities reported that DNA testing showed the burned remains found in the serial rapist’s cell did not belong to him.
“At this point our priority is to find this fugitive of justice and establish exactly how he faked his death,” police spokeswoman Athlenda Mathe told AFP on Monday.
In a statement, the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services asked the public for help locating Bester.
MEDIA STATEMENT| DCS INVESTIGATION ON THABO BESTER pic.twitter.com/R4iuEwSVxj
— Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services 🇿🇦 (@Min_JCS) March 25, 2023
“No stone will be left unturned in getting to the bottom of Thabo Bester’s escape, and there will be serious consequences for any party involved,” the ministry said.
Bester, who has been dubbed the “Facebook rapist,” allegedly used the social media site to meet his victims and then raped and robbed them. One person was slain, at the very least. According to the BBC, he was given a life sentence in 2012 for the rape, robbery, and murder of a model.
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Police said on Sunday that an examination on the body recovered in Bester’s cell showed the man died of blunt force trauma to the head before being set on fire. There is now a brand new murder investigation underway.
In South Africa, where women’s rights groups have long claimed the government isn’t doing enough to combat violence against women, the case has stirred uproar. One of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world may be found in this country.
Bafana Khumalo, co-director of NGO Sonke Gender Justice, told AFP, “The unfolding of this story has been like a movie and sent shivers down everyone’s spines…I can imagine what it did to the victims”
Law enforcement agencies around the country reported over 12,000 rapes between October and December of last year. In November of 2016, local news source GroundUp was the first to report on possible complications surrounding Bester’s death.
Since then, photographs have emerged supposedly showing the convict food shopping in a posh neighborhood of Johannesburg. Moreover, a number of women have come forward to claim that the inmate attempted to contact them through social media.
Bester allegedly managed a fake media company under a fictitious name while doing time in prison. The thief was caught on camera delivering a sham video speech to a company event from his New York prison cell.
“The escape of Bester… is testament to the incompetence of the Correctional Services system, and the endemic corruption in the sector,” claimed a statement from the Economic Freedom Fighters, a radical left-wing opposition organization.
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