Inmate Who Escaped in 'Hollywood' Fashion in Custody

Thabo Bester, celebrity girlfriend detained in Tanzania, returned to South Africa
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2023 12:38 PM CDT
Story of Inmate's Faked Death, Escape Gets Even Stranger
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.   (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

A convicted rapist and killer who faked his death before escaping from a South African prison a year ago is back in custody. Thabo Bester, his celebrity girlfriend, and a Mozambican national were arrested last week in Tanzania, from which they planned to travel to Kenya, officials say, per CNN and CBS News. The trio reportedly had several unstamped passports each. Bester and celebrity doctor Nandipha Magudumana were seen arriving at an airport in Johannesburg on Thursday. Prison authorities only confirmed Bester's escape from Manguaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein in recent weeks, noting DNA tests on a burned body found in his cell did not match with the so-called "Facebook rapist."

Authorities now say the 35-year-old escaped with help from prison guards, then lived for months in a mansion in a Johannesburg suburb. Two prison guards and a night supervisor were previously fired for alleged roles in the escape, while seven more were suspended, per the BBC and CNN. One guard has been charged with murder in connection with the burned body. Magudumana's father faces the same charge, as will Magudumana herself, per CBS. She's also to be charged with fraud and aiding and abetting escape, per CNN. Armed police were seen placing Magudumana in a van at Lanseria Airport on Thursday, while Bester was taken away in a police vehicle with bars on the windows. He was sent to Kgosi Mampuru Central Maximum prison in Pretoria, where he'll be under 24-hour surveillance.

South African authorities have seized control of the Manguaung prison from private security firm G4S, which was forced to answer for the May 3, 2022, escape at a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday. Officials acknowledged a TV cabinet big enough to hide a body was allowed into the prison without a search hours before Bester fled. They also said top-ranking officials had approved Bester's transfer to a single-occupant cell next to a fire exit. Additionally, an investigation found the prison's security camera recording system experienced a "power interruption" around the time of the escape. "Are you honestly telling us this escape of Hollywood proportion was done with the assistance of only three people?" asked lawmaker Glynnis Breytenbachshe, per CBS. Police say more arrests will come. (More South Africa stories.)

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