Suspect in jailbreak returns to South Africa

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Suspect in jailbreak returns to South Africa

A fugitive rapist and murderer who left a burned corpse in his cell during a jailbreak has returned to South Africa after fleeing to Tanzania.

The case has embroiled authorities and angered fresh outrage over the authority of South Africa's police and criminal justice system.

Thabo Bester, who was sentenced to life in prison for rape, robbery and murder in 2012, lured victims on Facebook before raping and robbing them. At least one victim was killed.

He escaped from a privately run prison in Bloemfontein last month, but police said they only found out last month.

In May 2022, the charred body of a man was found in Bester s cell, leading prison officials to believe at first that he had set himself on fire.

DNA evidence later revealed the body had belonged to someone else, and police launched a murder investigation late last month.

Bester, who is alleged to be in love with a woman with whom he is romantically involved and a Mozambican accomplice, was arrested last Friday by Tanzanian police.

They were caught in the town of Arusha, where they were said to be making their way to the Kenyan boarder.

Bester and the woman, a celebrity doctor and social media influencer, were flown back in the early hours of Thursday morning by a specially chartered plane that landed at Lanseria airport, north of Johannesburg.

We can confirm that these fugitives have been returned to South Africa the South African justice minister, Ronald Lamola, said at a press conference in Cape Town.

Bester was taken to Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Facility in Pretoria, Lamola said.

Bester will be kept under 24 hours under security and guarded by highly trained officers, the justice ministry said in a statement.

His alleged partner and accomplice was under arrest pending a court appearance later on Thursday.

She faces charges of murder, violations of bodies, fraud, and aiding and abetting the escape of a prisoner, police said.

Four others, including the celebrity doctor's father, have also been arrested in connection with the escape plot.

The father, who allegedly aided Bester in his prison break, was charged with murder today in connection with the man found dead in Bester s cell.

Bester's case resurfaced in October last year when local investigative news organisation GroundUp reported on the mystery surrounding his death.

In March, the outlet reported damning evidence that the deputy minister of Correctional Services had been informed by a prison warder about Bester s escape as early as June 2022, yet nothing was done.

In late March, South African authorities began efforts to apprehend him, following rising pressure from the public following his escape.

The Correctional Services Ministry said last month it would not renew its contract with G 4 S, the British multinational private security company that ran the private prison Bester escaped from.

The prison has been taken over by South African authorities pending the outcome of the ongoing investigations.

The London-based security company was also asked to parliament by a committee looking into the case.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, his spokeswoman, said on Wednesday that President Cyril Ramaphosa was disturbed by the escape.