Police suspect a man who has become known as the “Facebook rapist” has committed his first murder – stabbing a woman in a B&B in Milnerton.
The man, who goes by the name Thomas Bester, one of 13 aliases, has been allegedly scamming people for seven years and recently started targeting models.
According to police, Bester’s modus operandi involves luring young women interested in modelling and television work by claiming to be the chief executive officer of a fake company, either BSB Investments or BSB Media.
In a “wanted” notice issued by police, it said Bester also pretended to work for known organisations including MTV Base, Trace TV, e.tv, BET Black Entertainment Television, Def Jam and Island Records.
The notice said Bester promised women high-paying jobs and often stole their belongings from them when meeting them. It said he stayed in B&Bs with them and left, leaving the women to foot the bill.
However, recently his actions have become more violent.
Police said the man had been operating in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town.
In the most recent incident police suspect he is involved in, 26-year-old Nomfuno Tyulu, of Honeydew in Johannesburg, was murdered in a Milnerton B&B.
Her body was found last Wednesday with a stab wound to the chest.
That same day, a Facebook user under the name Thomas Kelly Bester, believed to be Bester, posted this message: “Catch me if you can … Why are people bothering me?”
The Facebook profile included photographs of Bester. His victims have confirmed to police that they are photos of the man who scammed them.
On Wednesday, Lieutenant-Colonel Will Lombard of the Durban police said it was “strongly suspected” Bester was behind Tyulu’s murder.
In other incidents Bester was linked to, a Johannesburg model was lured to Cape Town at the start of the month, but realised who he was and managed to escape from him in Bellville.
In mid-August, Bester lured a model from Johannesburg to a Durban hotel, where he raped her and stabbed her in the face.
On Wednesday, Haden Searles, the Durban North-Umhlanga Community Police Forum chairman, said based on records, it appeared Bester started scamming people seven years ago.
He said Bester, thought to be in his early to mid twenties, was constantly moving between provinces.
“Talk to anyone who has had contact with him. He knows what he’s doing. How do you get a modelling agency to send models to a shoot? His documentation, contractual documentation, passes muster,” he said.
Searles said, despite intense investigations into Bester, personal details about him, including his actual name, were not known. “He’s a ghost to us. But he needs to know we’re on his trail. We’re not giving up. It’s just a matter of time before he puts a foot wrong,” he said.
Searles said Bester recently travelled to Durban with models from Johannesburg. The models, in two taxis, realised something was amiss and Bester escaped before police arrived.
Searles said Bester recently tried to get models from Cape Town to Durban.
Jade Sham, a booker at Ice Model Management in Cape Town, said a man identifying himself as Bester contacted the agency twice requesting models. The first time was last year and the second about a month ago.