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Top cop rips into Nandipha Magudumana’s ‘Stockholm syndrome’ defence

The infamous murderer and rapist’s lover says he forced her to flee with him, but an investigating officer has found plenty of holes in her story.

It is an aberrant form of Stockholm syndrome that Nandipha Magudumana claims to have suffered at the hands of her lover, Thabo Bester, after his daring escape from a maximum security prison on 3 May 2022.

For a year, the dangerous r@pist and kiIIer was free to roam the streets while living with the glamorous young doctor in an upmarket house, protected by private security guards, in Sandton.

Around March this year, an alert member of the public snapped a picture of Magudumana out shopping with a man who looked a lot like Thabo Bester, who was meant to be dead at the time.

Were it not for the online publication GroundUp, with the help of former Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron, now heading the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services, our celebrity fugitives would be living their best lives elsewhere.

In bail hearings in the magistrates’ court in Johannesburg this week, Magudumana’s lawyer, Frans Dlamini, said she would be testifying that Bester had “forced” her to flee South Africa and that her beau had emotionally abused her.

This was after she had helped the killer, who used Facebook to lure his victims, to pull off one of the most diabolical and daring prison breakouts in South Africa.

Magudumana is also claiming to be a victim of “powerful families” in the country, whom she alleges abused her.

“Stockholm syndrome” was coined after a bank robbery gone wrong in Stockholm in August 1973 when four employees were held hostage for six days. During a standoff with authorities, one hostage told then Swedish prime minister Olof Palme that she trusted her captors and not the police.

Another infamous manifestation of the phenomenon of “falling in love with your captors”, also in the 1970s, was that of kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst, who joined the Symbionese Liberation Army, which had been holding her hostage. Hearst was famously caught on camera helping her captors to rob a bank in 1974.

Where it began

Magudumana, who is 34, lived for 10 years with her husband and two young daughters until a separation, which, she informed the court, she would “divulge later”.

Investigating officer Lieutenant-Colonel Tiohe Flyman, of the organised crime unit in Bloemfontein, said Magudumana had previously deposed an affidavit when trying to gain access to a charred body that had been removed from Bester’s cell and was in the possession of the SAPS at the time.

She claimed the couple had started “d@ting” in May 2017 and lobola had been arranged with her father, Zolile Sekeleni, who is a co-­accused in the escape saga.

Sekeleni deposed to an affidavit that R60,000 lobola had been arranged for the customary marriage of his daughter. This is the story Magudumana originally spun when trying to access the c0rpse from the SAPS.

What all this means, in unscrambling the timeline of lies and according to her own account, Magudumana must have been romantically involved with Bester after imposition of his life sentence at the maximum-security, privately run prison in Mangaung.

No sign of Stockholm syndrome so far if this history is to be believed. Even daddy was there at her side.

Bester was sentenced in 2011 for the rape of two young models he had lured through a social media platform with the offer of jobs. In 2012 he was given a life sentence for robbing and murdering a third young woman, Nomfundo Tyhulu, in a Cape Town guest house.

The doctor’s hands

The court heard this week that the same hands Magudumana had used on patients at her luxury skincare clinic in Sandton, when she was still registered to practise as a doctor, signed out two unclaimed bodies from mortuaries in 2022.

The first, from the state mortuary, was later found drifting down the Kopano Nokeng River near Bloemfontein after Magudumana and her fellow conspirators abandoned their first attempt to spring Bester.

That body has still not been claimed or identified, the court heard.

The second body, charred in the single cell, was later found to be that of Katlego Bereng of Thembisa. An autopsy indicated he had suffered blunt force trauma before his death. There was no smoke in his lungs.

At the time, Correctional Services issued a media statement announcing Bester’s apparent bizarre “suicide” and that was apparently the end of that.

‘I was defenceless, helpless…’

Magudumana has now told the court that when Bester “forced” her into a black hired Mercedes-Benz used as a getaway vehicle to a “destination unknown to me” she had been under duress.

“I refused and wanted an explanation. He forced me, he directed threats. I was defenceless, helpless with no one to report to. I was taken out of the country against my will. I had no control. I was scared of threats,” she said.

Flyman, who cracked the case and apprehended the two fugitives in Tanzania on 13 April, told the court that Magudumana should not be allowed out on bail as she had “no respect for the law or the justice system”.

“The nature of offences was shocking to the community. In a well-planned operation, a convicted rapist and murderer was back in the community,” the detective said.

Also, Magudumana’s dealings with the corpses that she falsely claimed had shown “gross disrespect”.

Magudumana has argued that she should be allowed out on bail to attend to her parental responsibilities. “I am a well-known medical practitioner and I would never think of not standing trial,” she added.

Flyman told the court that, in fact, the doctor had abandoned her two schoolgoing children, who now lived with their father.

“She deserted them since March 2023 when she decided to elope, when she was still a married woman,” Flyman said.

Since her incarceration, she has not received any calls or visits from her husband or children and most of her communication from her cell has been with lawyers and friends.

Magudumana was so invested in the scheme with Bester that it was she who drove in her Porsche to fetch him from KwaZulu-Natal after his escape, the lieutenant-general said.

Read more : Thabo Bester and Nandipha Magadumana alleged inhumane treatment at hands of SAPS while in custody 

The couple had co-signed a lease for the house they moved into in Sandton. Magudumana had written out a prescription for Bester and the couple had visited a salon.

“There is no evidence she was forced or threatened in any manner. She stayed in a boutique hotel in Bloemfontein in what appears to be facilitation for the escape,” said Flyman.

The displays of affection between Magudumana and Bester when they first appeared together in the dock on 8 August did not suggest she was afraid of or threatened by him.

“They held hands and smiled at each other,” Flyman said.

Magudumana had ample time to alert any number of officials or authorities during her 3,400km dash to Tanzania with Bester and co-conspirators. She did not do so.

Top cop rips into Nandipha Magudumana’s ‘Stockholm syndrome’ defence
Top cop rips into Nandipha Magudumana’s ‘Stockholm syndrome’ defence

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