Prisoner Known as ‘Facebook Rapist’ Was Reported Dead Behind Bars, Faked His Own Death and Escaped: Reports

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Convicted South African serial rapist Thabo Bester was reported dead last year but now authorities are issuing a nationwide manhunt after they say he faked his own death.

A convicted sexual predator known as the “Facebook Rapist” was reported dead behind bars in a South Africa prison earlier last year, but it turns out he reportedly faked his own death and has escaped, according to reports.

Authorities believed Thabo Bester died after setting himself on fire in a privately run prison in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in May 2022, according to CBS News.  

Over the weekend police said DNA tests revealed the charred remains found in Bester’s cell belonged to someone else, CBS News reported.

"At this point our priority is to find this fugitive of justice and establish exactly how he faked his death," police spokeswoman Athlenda Mathe told AFP.

Police said an autopsy revealed the person found dead in Bester’s cell had died from blunt force trauma to the head before being set on fire, according to Al Jazeera.

A murder investigation has been opened.

South Africa’s national Department of Corrections had denied “for months” that Bester faked his own death following an investigation by news outlet GroundUp, according to South Africa’s state run media, SABC.

GroundUp obtained photographs reportedly showing Bester grocery-shopping in an affluent Johannesburg suburb during their investigation.

On Sunday, the Department of Corrections spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo. released a statement to SABC to confirm that Bester faked his own death and was on the loose after escaping the private prison.

“DCS is now in a position to bring forth findings of its investigation on Thabo Bester, an offender sentenced to life and 75 years imprisonment. A post-mortem conducted on the body that burnt beyond recognition in Cell 35 at Mangaung Correctional Centre, revealed that it was an adult male with blunt force trauma to his head. The post-mortem report further revealed that there were no signs of smoke inhalation in the body,” Nxumalo said in the statement. “Furthermore, it uncovered that the pancreas and the spleen in the body were in the early stages of decomposition. The DNA sequencing with a person identified to be the mother of Bester failed to indicate a common ancestor or a match.”

Bester has been known in South Africa as the “Facebook Rapist." Prosecutors said he would lure victims on social media before raping and robbing them, according to reports.

At least one victim was killed during his reign of terror, according to Al Jazeera.

In 2012, Bester was sentenced to life in prison for rape, robbery and murder.

Nxumalo says there is a nationwide manhunt for Bester to be rearrested and brought back to prison.

“Therefore, a closable conclusion will mean that the body is not of Thabo Bester. This is the basis upon which the Correctional Services investigation report concluded. That Thabo Bester escaped from custody. On the 3rd of May 2022. Critically at this stage is for him to be found. We are appealing to the public to assist with the information that will lead to the re-arrest of Thabo Bester,” Nxumalo told SABC.

South Africa’s Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services echoed Nxumalo’s sentiments and  said in a statement on Twitter that they are appealing to the public for any information leading to Bester's arrest.

"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," the ministry said.

Bester’s original case has sparked outrage in South Africa, where women's rights groups have long accused the government of not doing enough to tackle violence against women, according to CBS News.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world, according to CBS News.

"The unfolding of this story has been like a movie and sent shivers down everyone's spines...I can imagine what it did to the victims," Bafana Khumalo, the co-director of NGO Sonke Gender Justice, told AFP.

Between October and December 2022 police recorded more than 12,000 rapes across the country, according to CBS News.

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