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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Minister Lamola concedes victims of Thabo Bester’s crimes were not informed of his escape

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Cape Town – Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has conceded that his department did not inform victims of crimes that were committed by prisoner Thabo Bester, when they discovered that he had escaped.

Lamola revealed this when he was responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Janho Engelbrecht when he asked what his department did to ensure the safety and protection of the victims of the escaped convict, among others.

In his written response, the minister said as soon as the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) discovered that Bester had indeed escaped from lawful custody, the matter was reported to the South African Police Service for investigation.

He said a case of escape was opened with the SAPS on January 12, 2023, and that a track and tracing team was established to facilitate the tracing and re-arrest of Bester.

“None of the victims were informed of the escape in line with the general procedure in relation to informing victims about offender/perpetrators who died or escaped from custody.”

Lamola also said the National Prosecuting Authority was not informed directly by DCS. However, a criminal case was reported to the SAPS for further investigation and possible prosecution by the NPA.

Asked how it was possible that Bester made use of social media platforms while incarcerated in the Mangaung Correctional Centre, Lamola said Bester had a laptop in his possession through which he was able to use social media.

“Preliminary investigations have revealed that the offender gained access to a laptop after being granted permission to utilise it for educational purposes.

“Investigations further revealed that no monitoring was done to confirm whether the offender still required the laptop for his studies as per initial approval and whether the instrument was utilised for its intended purpose.”

Lamola, after receiving information on Bester’s escape, instructed the national commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services to look into the matter and act appropriately to address the issue.

“Constant feedback was given to the minister and deputy minister as the investigation ensued and further details on the matter unfolded leading to the re-arrest of the escapee. “

Lamola said as per the Department of Correctional Services standard operating procedure, the scene was handed over to South African Police Services for investigation in relation to the fire that had occurred in the affected cell.

“It was based on the SAPS investigation by means of an autopsy that it was determined that the body found in the cell did not match that of offender Bester.

“The investigation also revealed that the individual suffered blunt force trauma and did not exhibit smoke inhalation.

“The matter is currently under investigation by the SAPS, therefore all further details in relation to the investigation should be directed to the SAPS,” he said.

Lamola also said the initial incident of fire, which was purported to be a suicide, was reported to SAPS on May 3, 2022.

“The case is currently under investigation by the SAPS of which this is the only institution which is able to provide progress in this regard.”

He also indicated that the facts relating to allegations of murder fell outside the scope of Department of Correctional Services and as such should be directed to SAPS.

Cape Times

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