Murderer who faked death to escape prison arrested after two-week manhunt

Thabo Bester is seen on a TV camera screen in the Western Cape High Court, in Cape Town, South Africa Thursday, May 3, 2012, where he appeared in connection with murder. The 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 April 9, 2023, to begin to extradite Thabo Bester. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)
Thabo Bester in the Western Cape High Court, in Cape Town, South Africa in May 2012. Credit: AP

A convicted murderer and rapist who faked his death to escape from prison in South Africa has been arrested in Tanzania following a two-week manhunt.

Thabo Bester, 35, was reported to have died in a fire in his prison cell in May last year, but reports later surfaced of him being seen in Johannesburg.

An investigation during which DNA samples were taken showed that the body burned beyond recognition in the cell was not his.

Bester’s elaborate escape has raised questions about possible involvement of officials at the Mangaung Correctional Centre, from where at least three have been fired, say local reports.

The maximum security prison was managed privately by the British-based G4S security firm, but the South African government has now taken over management.

Questions have been raised about officials' involvement in the G4S-run prison. Credit: PA

It announced that the G4S contract to manage the prison will not be renewed when it expires in 2026.

Bester was dubbed the "Facebook Rapist" as he used the social media platform to ensnare at least two women.

In 2012 he pleaded guilty to raping and murdering his model girlfriend Nomfundo Tyhulu, one year after he was convicted of raping and robbing two other women.

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 an upmarket 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, officials announced.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.

They were found with several fake passports which were unstamped at the time of their arrest, about six miles from the Kenyan border.

South African officials were headed to Tanzania on Sunday to begin to extradite the fugitives, who are expected to face several charges.

For nearly a year after his prison escape Bester had lived a lavish lifestyle with Magudumana in Johannesburg's upmarket Hyde Park suburb, South African news outlet GroundUp reported.

While in prison, Bester used a laptop he had for studies to run an event and production company, according to the site.

At one point he addressed a conference from his prison cell, telling attendees that he was speaking from the US, it reported.