Using fake Facebook profiles, the man, who police believe was most recently going by the name of Thomas Kelly Bester, has reportedly lured multiple women by promising lucrative jobs in the modelling or television industries.
While the true identity of the man is unknown, he is a suspect in the murder of a Johannesburg woman, Nomfundo Tyulu, who was found dead at a B&B near Cape Town, on 23 September. Tyulu had been stabbed in the chest.
Bester has reportedly been operating for several years, using 13 different known aliases. His modus operandi involves creating fake Facebook pages, and targeting and scamming young women who show an interest in modelling, acting or promotional work.
He has also been known to target modelling agencies, promotions and events companies and university campuses.According to reports, Bester claims to be the CEO of a fictitious company called “BSB Media” or “BSB Investments”, which are said to be acting on behalf of major clients such as MTV, SABC, eTV or Def Jam and Island Records.
Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela says reports that the Hawks were “about to swoop” on Bester, were somewhat exaggerated.
“The Hawks are involved in the investigation by virtue of our Cyber Crimes unit,” says Polela. “At this stage we are still just following leads.”
A warning issued by eBlockwatch says Bester gains the confidence of his victims through close contact interviews and is “very convincing”.
“He often travels by metered taxi and takes his victims to well-known hotels and shopping centres where he manages to steal their personal belongings, such as laptops and cellphones, and also often leaves the victim to pay for the bill, while he makes his escape, often leaving the taxi driver with a large fare.”
Reports have also emerged that Bester has previously posed as an ANC representative planning a birthday party for former president Nelson Mandela. The incident occurred in May, and at the time Bester also said he needed 10 women to do promotional work.
Once he had the women bussed up to Johannesburg, he left them at a hotel in Sandton and told them to order drinks and food. Bester then disappeared with their cellphones and laptops.
Bester was also linked to a scam in 2009 in which he allegedly advertised that he was working on an African version of Tyra Banks' hit TV show, “America's Next Top Model”.
In the same year, he was arrested in Johannesburg for allegedly being the mastermind behind the elaborate scam preying on aspirant models.
A warning was also circulated among B&B owners in December last year, when the fraudster was reportedly released on bail. The e-mail that was sent around warned: “He is very friendly and pretends to have a sponsor or corporate company that is going to settle the bill.
“He will also supply a fake letter of intent as his credit card was stolen and he cannot make bank transfers as he does not have Internet banking.”
In other incidents, Bester was linked to a Johannesburg model, who was lured to Cape Town at the start of last month, but realised who he was and managed to escape from him in Bellville.
In mid-August, Bester allegedly lured a model from Johannesburg to a Durban hotel, where he raped her and stabbed her in the face.
Aliases used by the man include Tom Bester, Thabo Tom Bester, Thabo Magagule, Tom Kelly, Thomas Kelly Young and Thomas Magagula.
The most recent Facebook profile linked to Bester was created under the name “Thomas Kelly Bester”. On the profile he said he had worked at SABC 3, studied at UCLA and lived in “Cape Town, California”.
The profile was only created on 6 September and the “About me” section states: “Hot Models agency for FHM, Ice. I like being surrounded by hot girls. I'm in currently working on my new movie in South Africa.”
On the same day that Tyulu's body was found by police, Bester updated his Facebook status with: “Catch me if you can.... Why are people bothering me.”
According to reports, previous victims of Bester's scams have positively identified the photographs used by Bester on the Facebook profile. The profile has since been removed.
Polela, however, says Bester is leaving an online trail. “You mustn't forget that in the online space, even if you delete something, it's still there.”
According to reports, Bester recently called the head of the psychologically motivated crimes unit in KwaZulu-Natal, Anton Booysen, in order to negotiate a prison sentence. He was reportedly cold and calm during the conversation and spoke about killing himself.
He is currently suspected to be in Cape Town, as a number of women have reportedly told the police that a man fitting Bester's description had arranged appointments to meet with them. He is believed to be using a new alias, Marius Botes.
It is suspected that Bester has been operating in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Milnerton and Parow.
Our comments policy does not allow anonymous postings. Read the policy here