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S. Africa: Convicted Rapist Fakes Death, Lives Lavishly

FILE - A collage of newspapers report on the story of South African police having launched a manhunt for convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester, who escaped from a privately-run maximum security prison in the Free State province under bizarre circumstances.

JOHANNESBURG — South African authorities are hunting down a convicted rapist and murderer who escaped from a privately-run maximum security prison in the Free State province, by faking his own death last March, in a fire.

A man convicted of the rape and murder of several women whom he lured on social media, is reportedly alive and living lavishly in South Africa’s posh Hyde Park suburb in Johannesburg, after staging his own death in a prison fire, last March.

Thabo Bester, also known as the "Facebook rapist," because of his use of the social media platform to pursue his victims, is now being hunted by police who suspect he set his prison cell on fire as distraction, and escaped with possible help of some prison officials.

Authorities revealed that the body they found in Bester’s Mangauch Correctional Center prison cell last March, belonged to another man who’s identity is still unknown.

“A case of murder is under investigation following the outcome of the DNA analysis that confirmed that the body of the deceased which was found was not of Thabo Bester," police spokeswoman Motantsi Makhele said.

Makhele said they have now opened a case of escape from lawful custody since confirming that Bester is not in their custody.
“A manhunt has been launched for all persons of interest in this particular case," she said.

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

Prior to his escape, GroupUp reports that while in prison, Bester lived the life of a free man, running events and a production company on a laptop he had received for studies. According to the report, Bester at one point even addressed a conference from his prison cell, wearing a tie and telling other attendees that he was speaking from the U.S.

Based on South Africa's Department of Correctional Services, Britain-based private security firm, G4S, currently runs the Mangaung prison, and was awarded a contract to administer the facility until 2026.

The department has no intention to renew the contract, it said in a statement.

“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,” said Correctional Services spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo.