Thabo Bester and Dr Nandipha Magudumana: A Match Made in Prison

If a talented team of scriptwriters had stretched their imagination and came up with the plot for a top-of-the-list crime tv series, they may have conjured up the incredible story of Thabo Bester and his girlfriend Dr Nandipha Magudumana, who pulled off a daring prison break.  

This con-artist and convicted rapist and murderer got his girlfriend, a successful medical surgeon, Dr Nandipha Magudumana, to smuggle a dead body into a secure private prison to replace him in his burning prison cell, as he escaped.  The couple did not go into hiding, but lived it up in Johannesburg’s most affluent high society suburb, where they occupied a mansion, not far from the doctor’s elite plastic surgery practice.  What could motivate a woman to do this?

Background history on the duo

Thabo Bester was born in Soweto on June 13, 1986 and as his mother never registered his birth he had no identity papers – he was a poor non-entity – literally, but Thabo, as he calls himself and he has many aliases, wanted the high life and he began hustling. Before he reached his 20’s Thabo was already imprisoned for fraud and released and set up a scam, which was dubbed the Facebook Rapist, where he lured models.  He pleaded guilty to raping two and killing his own girlfriend and in 2012 he was back in a secure private prison.  From his prison cell Thabo, the master con artist, created a bogus media company, and an avatar, even attending lavish gala events on-line.  Nandipha’s family believes he met Nandipha on-line.

Typical of romance on-line scammers, he probably researched her, before he began grooming her. Her social media profile blazed like a meteor on his computer screen. She was a beautiful, young qualified medical doctor, specializing in dermatology and plastic surgery, who ran her own practice called Optimum Medical Aesthetics Solutions, in Sandton – one of the most affluent suburbs in South Africa, providing cosmetic surgery and beauty enhancement to the rich and famous. 

By 2018 Nandipha had climbed the social and corporate ladder to make the top 20 Most Influential Young South Africans list. She was an influencer, who bedecked in top designer brands, would lure investors, and banks would not question astronomical amounts of money flowing into her account.  Thabo and Nandipha was a perfect match made in prison. The fact that she was already married was of no consequence to Thabo. 

So, he created the avatar TK Nkwana and became her mentor. Nandipha and the incarcerated Thabo co-founded Arum Properties, a construction company that allegedly defrauded clients out of millions of rands and she still ran her lucrative plastic surgery operation.  

Behind the scenes of her successful business career, Dr Nandipha would secretly and regularly visit Thabo at the privately owned Mangaung Correctional Centre, where they plotted his escape. By now she was deeply in love and his criminal conviction for rape and murder did not matter to her.  She would do anything to get him out.

The plan was that Nandipha, being a medical doctor, would secure a body from a morgue, which would then be smuggled into prison.  Two attempts failed, with the first body actually ending up in a river with the mortuary tag still attached to his toe.  Fake funerals were held for both bodies, with the coffins filled with meat and maize meal.  The elaborate plot thickened.

Eventually by far darker means, Nandipha actually managed to get a third body sneaked into the prison and bribed prison guards assisted Thabo to escape, setting his cell on fire with the body inside.

The Department of Correctional Services declared him officially dead, but something about a cell in a privately owned posh prison burning with only one criminal dying in the fire, caught the attention of a news agency called GroundUp, who began investigating Thabo Bester’s death.  Scarcely one month later, they spotted him blatantly buying groceries in Sandton, wearing only designer sunglasses as a disguise. 

When GroundUp established that the famous Dr Nandipha Magudumana was the one who claimed Thabo’s supposed burnt corpse and had it transferred to a Soweto morgue, they investigated and found her trail of roadside corpses of morgue bodies. Nandipha tried her best to have this corpse incinerated to destroy DNA evidence, but she was thwarted by alert police officers. Meanwhile, Thabo and Nandipha had been living it up in a mansion in affluent Hyde Park, spending their money on luxury items like cars, watches, jewellery and renovations.

Questions arose: What was Thabo Bester doing shopping in Sandton, who was the burnt body found in his cell, were autopsies done, why was his escape not made public and what was the connection between him and Dr Nandipha? The burnt body was identified in August 2022 as Katlego Bareng, who had died due to a blunt force injury to his skull – he was already dead before he was burnt! Clearly wardens of the prison were involved in a cover-up.

Two days after GroundUp published their report in March 2023, Thabo Bester and Nandipha fled the country.  In April 2023 they were arrested bearing false passports in Tanzania and deported back in a private jet.

Nandipha was charged with aiding and abetting an escaped convict, murder, violation of bodies and fraud. Nandipha’s father, prison wardens and others were all arrested on aiding an abetting an escaped criminal. Charges of murder were filed on the death of Bereng. 

On 8 August 2023 news photographers’ cameras clicked when Thabo and Nandipha were reunited for the first time in court after their arrest. Usually when duos are arrested and split up, by the time they see each other again months later in court, one has usually sold the other one out.  But not Thabo and Nandipha.  She coyly smiled at him and they were spotted holding hands.  Journalists had a field day reporting on their designer clothing, her hair style and nails and jewels.  Thabo even complained to the judge that personal effects to the value of R29 million were taken from him by the police upon his arrest and never returned.  This was coming from a man who had allegedly scammed millions from people. 

The pre-trial conference was set for June 5, 2024. I would recommend GroundUp journalists Marecia Damon and Daniel Steyn’s book “The Thabo Bester Story”, as a very good read. (Please watch my YouTube and Patreon videos for the inside story on this court appearance)

The question that begs to be answered is what motivated a professional woman, a qualified doctor with a lucrative practice and a high social standing not only for getting herself involved with a criminal, but also to commit several crimes herself, risking everything for someone she knew to be a con artist, a rapist and a murderer? 


The concept of women falling in love with criminals is not that unusual.  Psychology even has a term for it. It is called hybristophilia.  It was first researched by sexologist John Money in 1986 and since then, many experts have weighed in on the subject. Coincidently this was the year Thabo Bester was born.

The American Psychology Association Dictionary defines hybristophilia as a sexual interest in and attraction to those who commit crimes. This may be directed toward prisoners incarcerated for various types of criminal activities, not just murder and the gender of the hybristophiliac and criminal do not matter.  Hybristophiliacs can range from prison groupies who keep newspaper clippings, to relationships limited to extensive letter writing, to women who actually marry prisoners, with serial killers making top notch husbands.

Some hybristophiles are active and actually pursue, become accomplices and commit crimes to assist their criminal lovers. 

To get the intimate details about this incredible prison break and Thabo Bester and Dr Nandipha Magudumana saga’s please join my Patreon Community on the Patreon Platform: Micki Pistorius for an in-depth article and my video analyses. 

Top image: Thabo Bester and Dr Nandipha Magudumana in Court: YouTube