Police believe the “Facebook rapist” is in Cape Town or on his way here.
The man, who has about 13 aliases, has made several appointments with women in the city over the past few days and he is believed to be using a new alias – Marius Botes.
He is alleged to have raped one woman in Umhlanga, and he is also wanted in connection with the murder last week of Nomfundu Tyolo, from Honeydew, Johannesburg, in a Milnerton B&B.
He most frequently uses the name Thomas Bester. He is known for telling young, beautiful women that he can secure them jobs in the modelling industry and then swindles them out of cellphones, laptops and cash.
Lieutenant-Colonel Anton Booysen, KZN head of the psychologically motivated crimes unit, told Weekend Argus he had received calls from two women in Cape Town on Thursday saying they had appointments with the man.
In both cases, he had called them and told them he couldn’t make it.
In one instance, Bester had arranged to meet a woman at a Parow shopping centre. When he called to cancel at the last minute, the woman grew suspicious and did some checking. She contacted Booysen to say she believed it had been Bester she was supposed to meet.
Booysen believes Bester may have cancelled the meeting when he saw the woman had a child with her.
On the same day, another woman who had been due to meet Bester at the One&Only hotel at the V&A Waterfront, approached a Cape Town police station to ask if he was the same man who had been scamming women.
“The police there didn’t know anything about it, but somehow she got hold of my number and I told her ‘you’re not going to see this guy’,” Booysen said.
He added that this appeared to be the third incident where Bester had used the One&Only hotel.
“We know that in the case of the Cape Town girl who was murdered, they went to the One&Only hotel at some stage. We don’t know if they were staying there or what they were doing…”
Booysen said he was “almost certain” the same man who had killed Tyolo was the one targeting models. “I can’t say why because that is sensitive information to the investigation,” he said.
Booysen said the presence of CCTV cameras did not appear to worry Bester.
“It seems he is not afraid. His modus operandi is so complex that we assume he is of reasonable intellect, but the cameras don’t bother him.” He said Bester appeared to be setting up appointments in Cape Town but that he could be “anywhere”. “Of course, he could be doing this to fool us or confuse us,” Booysen said.
Bester has allegedly been running scams across the country, focusing on Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. His alleged crimes have become increasingly violent. He served two years of a three-year sentence for fraud under the name Thabo Magagulu in Johannesburg but was released on parole. In July, shortly after his release, he broke parole and has been taunting police ever since.
Booysen said yesterday that he was receiving calls daily from people who Bester had approached or scammed.
Police believe Bester is stealing two to three laptops daily, in addition to running other scams where he asks women to pay him for auditions and setting up elaborate photo shoots and making off with staff and models’ belongings.
In July, he convinced a Joburg charter company to collect him and several models in Durban and fly them to a shoot in Cape Town. A spokeswoman for the company told Weekend Argus that the company was supposed to pick up Bester, who had used the name Tom Kelly to book the flight, in Cape Town as well, but his payment had failed to clear.
Booysen said that about a month ago, Bester had rented two buses and booked a photographic crew for a shoot.
“When all the camera equipment was loaded in the buses, he announced that everyone was going for lunch. When one cameraman tried to take his camera with him, he (Bester) told him that he would only take responsibility for the equipment left on the bus, and managed to convince this guy to leave his camera behind,” Booysen said. All the equipment was stolen.
“He also got 13 models and told them he had set up an audition. He got them to pay him for the audition and then told them all of their laptops and phones needed to be scanned for security purposes. When the models went to the hotel room where he told them they could collect their belongings, he was gone,” Booysen said.
Bester’s Facebook profile claims he attended high school in the Free State, and he now lives in Cape Town and California – but that his home town is in France. It also claims that he was an executive producer at SABC3. He also claims to be shooting a movie.
On Tuesday, after the news broke of the death of Tyolo, Bester updated his Facebook page (Thomas Kelly Bester) with messages and new pictures, including an attractive woman.