Police dragged feet, ignored red flags – authors | #daitngscams | #lovescams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | | #dating

Senior Daily Maverick journalist Rebecca Davis recently hosted a webinar with award-winning GroundUp journalists Marecia Damons and Daniel Steyn, who broke the Thabo Bester story at the beginning of the year.

While the webinar took a deep dive into South Africa’s appalling justice system, Damons and Steyn were also virtually launching their book, The Thabo Bester Story, which describes Bester and Nandipha Magudumana’s early lives, their love affair, the tragedy surrounding their many victims, and a web of complicity in South Africa’s broken prison system.

The story of Thabo Bester might not have been a traditional GroundUp story, but Damons and Steyn impressively investigated it in a way that the police and the rest of the justice system failed to do, raising many red flags that were overlooked during the authorities’ investigations.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Damning timeline — Government knew of Thabo Bester escape as early as October 2022 but failed to act

Damons said the Bester story sums up South Africa and its problems and that if the police had not fumbled so many aspects of the case, it would not even have been a story.

“Had the police done their job more effectively, this would have been nipped in the bud by June/July last year already when police were already aware of the fact that the body found in the cell, firstly, was dead before the fire had broken out and that the DNA of the body found in the cell did not match that of Thabo Bester’s biological mother.

“I think that elements of how police dragged their feet with this investigation speaks to a much broader issue and I think that is one of the elements that a lot of South Africans can relate to. I think that is what makes the story very uniquely South African,” Damons said.

While in prison, Bester was able to run his businesses by communicating via cellphone and a laptop, which is against the Correctional Services Act.

Steyn said, “Many of the whistle-blowers who were prisoners used cellphones to contact us and even the authorities to blow the whistle on what was happening. In terms of the laptops, any prisoner who is registered with a tertiary institution, in a course or a degree can have access to their own private laptop inside their cell, but that is only supposed to be used for studying and should be monitored.”

Bester was enrolled for a graphic design course at Damelin, but the course had ended by the time he was running his businesses and scams.

Even while he was held at a high security, privately run prison with good surveillance technologies, no proper checks were conducted to monitor what was on his laptop. Bester had access to the internet and presented himself as a New York-based businessman who was able to attend video conferences so he could scam people into investing in his fake companies with the help of his lover Magudumana.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Thabo Bester and Nandipha Magudumana threaten court action to stop book release

In the book, the authors highlight the authorities’ failure to look into the case of Katlego Bereng, whose body was used as a decoy in Bester’s prison escape.

Steyn revealed that the police knew as early as 6 May, three days after the fire, that the body found in Bester’s cell was of a person who had died before the fire broke out and that Magudumana had claimed two bodies from a mortuary. But the police never placed her under surveillance or brought her in for questioning.

“I would attribute it to incompetence and lack of resources. You see this in all aspects of the police’s investigation in this story. Things that should have raised suspicion earlier, that should have been investigated earlier, were investigated much later.

“Both the bodies that Magudumana claimed, fake burials were held in Bloemfontein. In one case, a coffin with boerewors was buried and in the other, a coffin with mealie pap. In both those cases there was no proper investigation until earlier this year after we had written our articles and exposed the escape,” Steyn said.

The book also reveals Magudumana’s innocence before her affair with Bester, which makes one wonder why a woman so successful and ambitious would fall for a psychotic murderer and rapist.

Damons suggests that Bester presented Magudumana with business opportunities or ways to make money and that she later established a romantic relationship with him.

“At some point in time when she realised what he was, perhaps Magudumana was in too deep to just run away from Bester and ultimately decided to just ride the wave,” Damons said. DM


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