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 on Monday.
Sekeleni’s daughter, Nandipha Magudumana, a prominent South African doctor and personality, was arrested on April 7 while fleeing in Tanzania with Bester.
Nicknamed “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, authorities 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 were subsequently deported to South Africa.
Magudumana’s father, Sekeleni, 65, was arrested on April 8 along with a former prison warden and a former security camera technician, and the trio were charged with being complicit in Bester’s escape, according to police and officials. prosecutors.
He had initially been charged with “defeating the ends of justice, fraud, murder and arson” but that has now been dropped, a spokesman for South Africa’s National Prosecution Authority (NPA), Phaladi Shuping, told CNN.
A murder investigation by authorities had concluded that the burned body found in Bester’s cell had died before the fire started.
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 that Sekeleni, a former educator, will face other charges.
“The state will no longer proceed with a murder charge against Zolile Sekeleni because new evidence has emerged that has caused us to make this decision. He will still face charges of helping an inmate escape, defeating the ends of justice and fraud,” said Shuping, a spokesman for the NPA.
It added that “Sekeleni was released on bail of R10,000 ($550) due to exigent circumstances which were considered by the prosecution to be related to his health.”
Sekeleni will appear in court again on May 16, while a bail hearing for his daughter Magudumana and other defendants will be held early next month.
CNN has reached out to his and Magudumana’s attorneys for comment.
Magudumana was charged with murder and fraud, including complicity in Bester’s escape.
According to police, he faces new charges of escape from legal custody, defeating the ends of justice, rape of a corpse. and fraud.