Murder charge dropped against co-defendant in case of killer accused of faking his own death in South Africa
South African prosecutors have dropped a murder charge against Zolile Sekeleni, the father of the girlfriend of high-profile convicted murderer Thabo Bester, who is accused of escaping from a South African prison after faking his own death in a fire, officials told CNN Monday.
Sekeleni’s daughter, Nandipha Magudumana, a prominent medical doctor and personality in South Africa was arrested on April 7 while on the run in Tanzania with Bester.
Dubbed “The Facebook rapist” in South Africa, Bester was serving a life sentence for the murder and rape of a model in 2012.
Bester, 35, allegedly faked his death by placing the charred remains of another man in his prison cell, officials said.
The couple were arrested with a Mozambican national by Tanzanian authorities last week in the border town of Arusha after fleeing South Africa and was subsequently deported to South Africa.
Magudumana’s father Sekeleni, 65, was arrested on April 8 alongside a former prison warden and a former security camera technician, with the trio accused of being accomplices in Bester’s escape, according to the police and prosecutors.
He had initially been charged with “defeating the ends of justice, fraud, murder, and arson,” but that has now been dropped, a spokesperson for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Phaladi Shuping, told CNN.
A murder investigation by authorities had earlier concluded that the burned body found in Bester’s cell had died before the fire began.
An autopsy report also found that the deceased had died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head.
Shuping said the murder charge was dropped in light of new evidence, but added Sekeleni, a former educator, would face other charges.
“The state will no longer be proceeding with a charge of murder against Zolile Sekeleni because new evidence came forth, which made us take this decision. He will still face charges of assisting an inmate to escape, defeating the ends of justice and fraud,” NPA spokesperson Shuping said.
He added that “Sekeleni was released on bail of R10,000 ($550) due to compelling circumstances that were considered by the prosecution, relating to his health.”
Sekeleni will make another appearance in court on May 16, while a bail hearing for his daughter Magudumana as well as other accused will be held early next month.
CNN has reached out to his and Magudumana’s lawyer for comment.
Magudumana was charged with murder and fraud, including aiding and abetting Bester’s escape.
According to police, he faces new charges of escaping from lawful custody, defeating the ends of justice, violation of a dead body and fraud.