South African police announced on Monday that they were looking for a fugitive serial killer and rapist, whom they thought had been dead since May 2022 and the discovery of a charred corpse in his prison cell in Bloemfontein, where he was serving his sentence.
DNA analysis determined that the victim was not Thabo Bester, South African police revealed over the weekend.
"At this time, our priority is to find this fugitive and establish how exactly he made up his own death," police spokeswoman Athlenda Mathe told AFP on Monday.
Nicknamed "the Facebook rapist" for luring his victims through the social network - at least one of them had been killed - Thabo Bester was sentenced in 2012 to life in prison.
On Sunday, the police revealed that according to the autopsy, the victim found in his cell had succumbed to a violent blow to the head, before his body was set on fire. A new murder investigation has been opened.
The case has caused a stir in South Africa where women's rights associations regularly criticize the government for its inability to curb violence against women.
"The scenario of this story is like a movie and sends shivers down your spine (...) I can imagine how it was received by its victims", lamented Bafana Khumalo, co-director of the NGO Sonke Gender Justice.
Between October and December 2022, the police recorded no less than 12,000 rapes in the country.
It was local media, GroundUp, which first raised doubts in November 2022 about Bester's death. Since then, photographs have emerged showing the convict shopping in a shopping centre in an upscale neighborhood of Johannesburg.
And several women have publicly claimed that the serial rapist contacted them via social media.
Prior to his escape, Bester had reportedly managed to run a media scam from his cell under a false identity. A video, which has gone viral, shows him speaking to a company by videoconference where he claims to be in New York.
"Bester's escape (...) testifies to the incompetence of the prison administration and the endemic corruption of this sector", denounced in a press release the radical left party of the Fighters for Economic Freedom (EFF).