Police say the man suspected of being the “Facebook rapist”, who is also a murder suspect, has resurfaced – this time targeting women by sending them e-mails saying international modelling scouts are interested in them.
Using the name Thomas Bester – one of at least 13 alleged aliases – the 22-year-old is suspected of having committed a string of crimes in Cape Town, Durban and Gauteng, including the murder of a model in Milnerton last month and rape of two models in Durban about two months ago.
Recently, Bester began targeting women by meeting them in person, then befriending them on Facebook, or simply befriending them on Facebook.
Last week, though, Facebook accounts believed by police to be Bester’s were deactivated, and officers said he had gone to ground.
But on Thursday, Anton Booysen, KwaZulu-Natal head of the Psychologically Motivated Crimes Unit, said within the last few days Bester had started sending e-mail adverts to young women.
Booysen said this time Bester was using company names he had not used before. He was also using different aliases.
“The adverts were sent directly to girls he’s spotted before. He says he has specialist model scouts coming from the US. He says she’s been chosen as a girl who will probably make it,” Booysen said.
In the e-mails, Bester also said there were “major events” coming up. “He also says they are needed for short movies.”
Booysen said that, in the e-mails, which included a contact number for a secretary, Bester said women unable to travel abroad could find work in the country. He said the language and phrases used in the e-mails were the same or similar to the language Bester had used in previous e-mails.
Booysen was on Thursday reluctant to forward the e-mails to the media as police were trying to determine whether any contact numbers or names included were those of people who did not realise their details had been used.
And on Thursday, it emerged that Bester was arrested in Melville, Johannesburg, two years ago for posing as an international media executive and getting models and companies to buy into a bogus TV show.
Bester had sent out press releases saying he was organising a TV show called “Africa’s Next Top Model” – a spin-off of the popular reality show America’s Next Top Model, hosted by model Tyra Banks. Using the aliases Thabo Tom Bester and Tom Kelly, he claimed that the show would be aired on e.tv and the winner would get a $100 000 modelling contract with Banks. Models were charged R400 each to enter the non-existent contest.
Police arrested Bester and a business associate in March 2009, but he was released late last year.
On Thursday, a woman who had initially believed the “Africa’s Next Top Model” show was real, said Bester had appeared business savvy. He had documentation showing that e.tv would air the show and that various sponsors had given him clothing worth R100 000. She was shocked to hear that Bester was now a rape and murder suspect.
Andre Snyman, founder of eBlockwatch, the online community-based crime prevention organisation, said he was so concerned that he was offering models around the country free cellphone panic buttons. The offer would stand until Bester was arrested.
Snyman said that, when the panic button was pressed, an alert would go out to “a select few people” and the phone would be tracked. For more information or to register on eBlockwatch, go to http://www.eblockwatch.co.za