Heaving with emotion and with tears streaming down his face, a visibly drained Thabo Bester, dubbed the Facebook rapist, pleaded for leniency in the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday before being sentenced to 50 years’ jail.
Bester (23) related his story of personal hardship that started in Johannesburg, claiming years of abuse and poverty had led to his crimes. But magistrate Sharon Marks was not moved.
Marks gave him 15 years’ imprisonment on each of the two counts of rape. He was sentenced to another 15 years, with five years suspended, for each of the two counts of armed robbery with aggravating circumstances. Bester pleaded guilty to all charges on Wednesday.
Speaking in mitigation of sentence, Bester said he had made the best of a bad situation.
“I did what I had to do in order to survive,” he declared.
Bester had the filled-to-capacity courtroom’s full attention as he described his troubled childhood.
“I was abandoned by my parents and left in the care of my alcoholic grandmother. People she worked for helped put me through school,” he said, adding that he had to drop out in grade five to fend for himself.
Extremely articulate, Bester spoke loudly and clearly, momentarily breaking into tears.
“The first time I was abused it was by a man my grandmother sent me to who was going to circumcise me. The man didn’t do a proper operation, but only did a partial cutting — instead, he raped me,” he said, heaving and sobbing.
Barely 10 years old, Bester claimed, he was then raped by one of his grandmother’s friends, who apparently kept him behind closed doors for a week and sodomised him to the point that he needed an operation on his rectum.
He also claimed he was molested by various members of his grandmother’s family.
Forced to fend for himself since the age of 12 because his grandmother was ill, Bester claimed, he began sleeping in a squatter camp and started hanging out with a group of runaways and orphans.
“We would hustle for food and get by any way we could,” he said.
But it was later that Bester would be introduced to the more sophisticated world of fraud and corruption.
“I was asked by guys to cash fraudulent cheques and run other errands for which I was paid,” he said.
Bester was eventually caught in 2009 and charged with fraud, receiving a two-year suspended sentence.
“During my detention, I was gang-raped by a group of inmates and they also shoved a bottle of Sunlight and water up my anus, meant to release any valuables they thought I may have been hiding in my body cavity.”
The court was presented with the relevant case number, confirming that he had opened a case of indecent assault against inmates.
Bester said he understood that he had done a terrible thing by committing the rapes and robberies, but he needed to make peace with himself and he wanted a psychologist to make sense of the person he had become, before he is sent to die in prison.
“I’m sorry,” he swallowed his words, “I’m sorry, that’s all I can say.”
Bester’s lawyer, Narendra Narotam, described Bester as a victim of circumstances and that the “world was to blame”.
“We all have to take responsibility for what has happened,” he said.
Marks meanwhile described Bester as — in spite of his “sad life” — someone who was at all times aware of what he was doing.
“You have scarred these girls for life, and they will never be the same again,” she said.
‘You lured two beautiful and naive girls to your lair where you carried out these well-planned and premeditated heinous acts,” she said.
Marks said she did not see any genuine remorse shown by Bester for his victims, but only for himself.
Bester is also suspected of having committed a string of other crimes in Cape Town, Durban and Gauteng, including the murder of a woman in Milnerton last month.
The serial rapist challenged police via social networking sites such as Facebook to catch him if they could.
On two known occasions he lured unwitting young women to hotels with the promise of glitzy modelling jobs, but instead, raped and robbed them at knife-point.
Bester apparently posted adverts on reputable websites such as FHM that were looking for models.