- Thabo Bester escaped prison, the DCS confirmed.
- He was serving life in prison for luring women off Facebook he would then rob and rape them.
- The department said an autopsy revealed that the body of a burnt prisoner found in Mangaung Correctional Centre on 3 May 2022 was not Bester.
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has confirmed that Thabo Bester escaped from prison.
Dubbed the "Facebook rapist", he used the social media platform to lure women saying international modelling scouts were interested in them.
He would then rape and rob them with a knife, murdering at least one of his victims.
In 2012, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for these crimes.
In a statement released on Saturday, the DCS confirmed that the body found in Cell 35 at Mangaung Correctional Centre following a fire on 3 May 2022, was not that of Bester. An internal report confirmed that Bester escaped prison.
"Critical at this stage is for Thabo Bester to be found.
"DCS is appealing to the public to assist with any information that may lead to the re-arrest of Bester. Such information should be provided to the nearest police station or a correctional services facility," said the department statement.
A post-mortem on the body that burnt beyond recognition revealed that it was an adult male with blunt-force trauma to his head. The post-mortem report further revealed no signs of smoke inhalation in the body.
READ | Facebook rapist: Deputy minister was informed by warder that Thabo Bester escaped
Furthermore, it uncovered that the body's pancreas and spleen were in the early stages of decomposition.
"The DNA sequencing with a person identified to be the mother of Bester failed to indicate a common ancestor or a match.
"This is the basis upon which the DCS investigation report concluded that Bester escaped from lawful custody on 3 May 2022," the department said.
The DCS said on 3 May, they received a report from Mangaung Correctional Centre, a public-private partnership (PPP) facility contracted to Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts, operated by security company G4S, indicating that Bester committed suicide by setting himself alight in his cell at about 03:25.
The incident attracted media attention, and it was confirmed to various media houses as received from G4S.
Recorded as unnatural death, the standard operating procedures dictated that an investigation be launched, and the incident be reported to the police. DCS said two officials from their department were appointed to investigate the incident.
"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 department added.
Bester, the businessman in prison
An investigation conducted by GroundUp this week revealed Bester ran a multimillion-rand scam while serving a life sentence for rape and murder at Mangaung Correctional Centre.
Bester posed as the chairperson of 21st Century Media, a scam event and production company, which was made to look like a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox.
21st Century Media became the subject of a social media storm in 2018 for promoting a "Women in Media" conference with Hollywood A-listers as guest speakers, which turned out to be a scam.
READ | Convicted rapist, murderer Thabo Bester ran glamorous media company from prison
GroundUp has pictures and video footage of the glitzy launch of 21st Century Media in 2018, held at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton.
The event was attended by members of Johannesburg's high society, including celebrities Amanda Du Pont and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
Attendees were told the chairperson of the company, "Tom Motsepe", would video call in from New York.
But unbeknown to the audience, the man appearing on the big screen was convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester, speaking from prison.
Bester’s “customary law” wife, celebrity doctor Nandipha Magudumana, claimed the body from the mortuary shortly after the fire.
But after the autopsy, the police confiscated the body for further investigations.