Durban — After news broke that “Facebook rapist” Thabo Bester escaped from prison, the private investigator who had been on the Siam Lee case reported that he had received messages from people, asking him if Philani Ntuli, Lee’s alleged killer was really dead.
Ntuli faced 16 charges ranging from murder and kidnapping to intimidation and crimen injuria. The most high profile among his charges related to the murder of Siam Lee, who went missing from a Durban North brothel in January 2018.
She was found burnt to death in a sugar cane field near New Hanover in the Midlands a week later.
Private investigator Brad Nathanson said that Bester is on the loose having staged an elaborate escape from prison after being sentenced to life behind bars.
Nathanson shared some of the faces of Bester as well as a picture of the woman he murdered, 26-year-old Nomfundo Tyulu.
“Bester was convicted of murder and rape. He is a monster. I don’t know much about Bester, save for what I have read, but I had him posted on my FB page some years ago when he was then a wanted rapist. I did not personally investigate Bester,” Nathanson said.
“Philani Ntuli is a man I got to know well and who also escaped a lifetime behind bars by conveniently dying before he could stand trial, a death that has left many people, myself included, feeling that in death, Ntuli got off lightly after kidnapping, raping and murdering 21-year-old Siam Lee.
“Since the ‘death’ of Ntuli this office (Brad Nathanson Investigations) has received so many messages from so many people, all asking if Ntuli is really dead, especially after Bester’s escape. To be honest, I can only say what I have been told as I did not see Ntuli’s corpse myself,” Nathanson said.
He said that what he did know is that if Bester is quite rightly considered to be a monster, then Ntuli makes Bester look tame by comparison.
“I know that Ntuli was responsible for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Siam Lee, and that Ntuli was responsible for the rape of many women (sex workers) who wrote to me after his arrest, for the kidnapping and rape of a masseuse in 2016, and I am sure in my mind that Ntuli was responsible for the burning of Lucky Mthembu’s mother’s car and her subsequent brutal murder. So if Ntuli is somehow still alive, like Bester, he needs to be put back where he belongs,” Nathanson said.
He said his sincere condolences go out to the living, whether they be those who mourn the dead or those who fell victim to either of these monsters.
Nathanson added that anybody with information was asked to contact him directly at 083 250 2007. “All information will be treated with confidentiality. You may also inbox us and be assured of anonymity. Please share this post far and wide. Together we can get the monster back in the cage,” he said.
In 2019, sister publication Independent on Saturday reported that Ntuli's death certificate was presented to the Durban High Court when the case was struck off the roll.
Judge Naresh Bhika lamented that it was a lost opportunity after much investigation by Rajan Govender and his team.
State advocate Cheryl Naidu said it took time for the State to get confirmation of Ntuli's death and that word of it had first come from press reports.
She said the State got fingerprints from the deceased while his body was at the funeral parlour.
“The State is satisfied that the deceased is in fact Philani Ntuli,” she said.
Bester supposedly burnt to death in his Mangaung Correctional Centre cell in May 2022. He had been serving a life sentence for rape and murder.
An investigation by GroundUp revealed Bester escaped from prison and was seen in Sandton shopping at a supermarket two months after he was apparently burnt to death.
Correctional Services admitted that the burnt body found in Bester’s cell in May 2022 was not Bester, and he had probably escaped from the public-private prison facility in Mangaung.
At the weekend, it was announced the DNA analysis conducted on the charred remains found in the cell confirmed that the body was not Bester’s but that of an unknown person.
WhatsApp your views on this story at 071 485 7995.