By Daniel Steyn and Marecia Damons, GroundUp
The timeline of events following the escape of serial rapist and convicted murderer Thabo Bester shows that government officials had known for months that Bester was at large and did not burn to death in his cell as previously claimed.
During a meeting on 18 October last year, the South African Police Service (SAPS) informed the department of correctional services and the judicial inspectorate for correctional services that Bester had escaped from the Mangaung maximum security prison in Bloemfontein.
Six days later, the inspecting judge for correctional services, Edwin Cameron, in a letter to Ronald Lamola, minister of correctional services, outlined how he suspected this was done.
These revelations were made on Wednesday during a session of the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice in which the circumstances surrounding Bester’s escape were discussed.
Although authorities had apparently known about Bester’s escape for months, he was only caught in Tanzania last week after more details about the incident became known in March.
Here is the timeline of events before, during and after Bester’s escape:
- A vehicle enters the grounds of the Mangaung maximum security prison without a valid access card.
- Bester was transferred to a single cell after he applied for it “for his own safety”. The application has been approved by G4S.
- Bester is reported dead after a fire broke out in his cell. G4S and the department declare it a suicide.
- A post-mortem examination is carried out on the body found in the cell. This shows that the person was dead before the fire broke out.
- The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services is investigating the unnatural death of Bester.
- Nandipha Magudumana collects the body from a Free State mortuary and transports it to a mortuary in Soweto. The SAPS investigates a case of murder after receiving the post-mortem.
- The police seize the body in Magudumana’s possession.
- Magudumana is approaching the Pretoria High Court so that the body is returned to her. She claims to be Bester’s wife.
- The investigating officer in the case makes a sworn statement that there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire.
- G4S provides the SAPS with information about the incident, including CCTV footage, visitor records and other details.
- The DNA of the body in the cell is analyzed and compared with Bester’s mother’s. The DNA does not match, but a sample of Bester’s actual DNA could not be found in the SAPS database.
- The SAPS is providing copies of the post-mortem and DNA results to the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services and is finalizing its preliminary report on the incident.
- The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services notes that Bester did not die in his cell.
- G4S reveals to the inspectorate that important footage of the incident has disappeared.
- A prisoner from the Mangaung maximum security prison writes to the Free State High Court that Bester escaped. Two judges were sent to the prison to investigate the case.
- The SAPS, the department and the judicial inspectorate for correctional services meet.
- The SAPS says there is no reason to believe that Bester faked his death and escaped. The department does not hand over its report. The SAPS asks the inspectorate to help enlist the help of the Falcons.
- The inspectorate interviews G4S employees and prisoners.
- Cameron writes to Minister Lamola that Bester may have escaped from prison.
- Cameron appeals to the Free State’s regional commissioner of correctional services to speed up the investigation. The regional commissioner refuses to discuss the matter without the guidance of the national commissioner.
- The Judicial Inspectorate for Corrective Services receives G4S’s report on its internal investigation, along with incomplete footage.
- The Department of Correctional Services’ national commissioner begins an investigation into the alleged involvement of officials from the department.
- Three officials attached to the department are suspended.
- The department of correctional services files a case of escape with the SAPS in Bloemspruit. The SAPS had previously refused to file a case.
- G4S provides the judicial inspectorate for correctional services with a final investigation report. This is apparently the first time they have been shown the DNA report.
- The Department of Correctional Services’ national commissioner is asking that the final investigation report be handed over to him by March 22.
- GroundUp publishes photos of Bester and Magudumana shopping in Sandton in June last year.
- The national commissioner receives the final investigation report.
- The national commissioner activates a team together with the SAPS to locate and arrest Bester.
- The Department of Correctional Services confirms to the public that Bester has escaped from prison.
- Bester and Magudumana are apprehended in Tanzania.
This post is originally on GroudUp published and used here with permission.
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