JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African convicted murderer who faked his death to escape from prison has been arrested in Tanzania following a two-week manhunt, police have announced.
South African officials are going to Tanzania Sunday to begin to extradite Thabo Bester, 35, dubbed the “Facebook Rapist” as he used the social media platform to lure at least two women he was convicted of raping. He was also found guilty of killing one.
Bester was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2012 and it was reported in May last year that he died in a fire in his prison cell.
However, reports surfaced of him being seen in Johannesburg and an investigation including DNA samples showed that the body found burned beyond recognition in the cell was not his.
Two weeks ago police said they were chasing Bester and last week they raided a luxurious home he was believed to have been renting in a posh Johannesburg suburb.
Bester was apprehended with his girlfriend Nandipha Magudumana, a well-known celebrity doctor, and a Mozambican national believed to have assisted them to cross borders and evade law enforcement authorities, officials announced.
They were found with several fake passports which were unstamped at the time of their arrest, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Kenyan border.
Authorities have now started the process to extradite the fugitives back to South Africa, where they are expected to face several charges. “An official delegation from South Africa, comprising senior officials from the police and the department of justice and correctional services will depart for Tanzania on Sunday,” Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said Saturday, announcing Bester’s arrest.
The South African news outlet GroundUp reported that for nearly a year after his prison escape Bester had lived a lavish lifestyle with Magudumana in Johannesburg’s upmarket Hyde Park suburb.
While in prison, Bester used a laptop he had for studies to run an event and production company, GroundUp reported. At one point he addressed a conference from his prison cell, telling attendees that he was speaking from the U.S., it reported.
Bester’s elaborate escape from prison has raised many questions about the possible involvement of prison officials.
At least three officials have been fired from the Mangaung Correctional Centre from where Bester escaped, according to local reports. The prison was managed privately by the British-based G4S security firm. The South African government has now taken over management of the maximum security prison and has announced that the G4S contract to manage the prison will not be renewed when it expires in 2026.