Killer and rapist who escaped prison by faking his own death back behind bars

A notorious South African killer who escaped from a maximum-security prison by faking his own death, has been apprehended-  after spending nearly a year living in a mansion with his celebrity doctor girlfriend.

Thabo Bester, nicknamed ‘the Facebook rapist,’ was arrested in Tanzania along with Dr. Nandipha Magudumana in Tanzania last Friday.

South African Police Minister Bheki Cele told reporters that the couple and another person who was caught with them had several passports in their possession and were about to cross the border into Kenya.

Bestor was escorted back to Johannesburg under heavily armed guard on Thursday, while Magudumana followed closely behind in a separate white van.

She is expected to be charged with murder as part of the elaborate jailbreak plot, which involved sneaking a dead body into the prison where Bester was held to help him fake his own death in a fire and escape.

A prison guard and Magudumana’s father have already been charged with murder in connection with the body of a man who was found burned beyond recognition in Bester’s cell.

Police say the unidentified man died of blunt force trauma to the head before the fire took place.

Bester was convicted of one count of murder and two counts of rape in the death of his then-girlfriend, model Nomfundo Tyhulu. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 75 years in 2012.

He was known as ‘the Facebook rapist’ due to his propensity for using social media to lure victims to his home before assaulting them.

Magudumana, meanwhile, is a well-known doctor and businesswoman whose Instagram page has more than 146,000 followers.

In 2018, the glamorous medic was named one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 most influential young South Africans.

Bester staged his escape from Mangaung correctional centre in Free State province nearly a year ago, when he was formally declared dead by suicide after the fire in his cell.

Details were only made public and pieced together in the past three weeks, with critics claiming officials intentionally covered up the story.

MPs held a special parliamentary hearing on Wednesday into security failures that played a role in the breakout.

They questioned senior officials from the prison and British private security company G4S, which has a long-term contract to run it.

Three prison employees, the night supervisor and two guards who worked in the security camera control room, were fired due to suspicion they helped Bester escape amid the confusion of the pre-dawn blaze in his cell on May 3, 2022.

Although one was charged with murder, MP Glynnis Breytenbach said she suspected more guards and officials were bribed to get the body into the cell and help Bester escape.

‘How many palms were greased?’ she asked during the hearing. ‘Are you honestly telling us this escape of Hollywood proportions was done with the assistance of only three people?’

The prison and G4S officials conceded under questioning that a TV cabinet big enough to possibly hide a dead body was brought into the prison in an unauthorised vehicle hours before Bester broke out at about 4am the following morning.

Neither the cabinet nor the vehicle was searched.

They also said top prison officials gave Bester permission to be transferred to a single-occupant cell three days before his escape. The cell was next to a fire exit, which he is believed to have used to flee.

MP Xola Nqola said it was ‘not a coincidence’ that Bester was moved to that cell.

An internal investigation by G4S found the prison’s security camera recording system had a ‘power interruption’ at about the time of the escape.

More arrests are expected to take place.

For months after his escape, Bester and Magudumana, whom police identified as his ‘accomplice’, lived in a mansion in a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg, driving luxury cars while running a company that allegedly defrauded businesses out of hundreds of thousands of pounds, according to media reports.

Authorities only announced publicly last month that Bester did not die in his cell and had escaped after South African news organisation GroundUp reported that the charred body found in the cell was not Bester’s, according to findings from the post mortem examination.

The news and heightened public interest in the case appeared to have spurred Bester and Magudumana to flee the country.

It also produced heavy criticism against authorities for failing to warn people that a dangerous criminal was on the loose.

The parliamentary hearing focused on the initial prison failures and continued on Thursday.

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