Thabo Bester escape: 'State case hyped-up and not watertight' - lawyer tells court

23rd May 2023 By: News24Wire

The State’s case was "hyped-up" and not "watertight".

This is what a lawyer for one of the five people accused of aiding in the escape of Facebook rapist Thabo Bester told the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court.

The accused - Senohe Matsoara, Teboho Lipholo, Motenyani Masukela, Tieho Makhotsa, and Nastassja Jansen - appeared in court on Tuesday for closing arguments in their bail application.

They allegedly aided Dr Nandipha Magudumana in helping her lover, Bester, escape from the Mangaung Correctional Centre last May. 

A burnt body was found in Bester's cell, and it was later revealed that it was actually of a Free State man, Katlego Bereng.

Advocate Kagisho Moruri, who represents, Matsoara, argued that his client had been in custody for over a month since his arrest.

Moruri told the court that it was not in the interest of justice to keep his client behind bars pending the investigation.

Moruri also told the court that his client had no previous convictions or pending cases and that he was not prone to violence.

"It is therefore submitted that the applicant will not endanger the public nor commit a scheduled offence," he said.

Moruri said that Matsoara had cooperated with the investigation following his arrest and had also handed over his passport.

He said Matsoara's address was also known to the court.

"I, therefore, submit that the applicant is not a flight risk." 

Moruri further argued that Matsoara would also not interfere with State witnesses and that he had sworn not to interfere with the investigation and would also refrain from tampering with any evidence. 

He said that his client had not provided false information to the investigating officers; was not on parole and had abided by previous bail conditions.

Moruri told the court that the investigating officer's testimony that there would be a public outcry if the accused were released on bail was "non-existent". 

"There is no likelihood that the release of the applicant on bail will spark an outcry," he said.

Moruri said his client could not be blamed for a delay in the matter and that the court must consider any financial loss his client suffered.

He also revealed that Matsoara was currently embroiled in a labour dispute with his former employer.

In closing, Moruri submitted that it was clear that in the interest of justice, Matsoara should be granted bail, arguing that the State did not have a "watertight case" against his client. 

Moruri, who also represents Makhotsa, told the court that his client had already spent 23 days in custody.

He argued that Makhotsa was not a flight risk because he handed in his passport. Makhotsa is accused of allowing Bester, disguised as a G4S guard, out of prison on 3 May 2022.

Moruri said that at no point did Makhotsa provide false information to investigating officers. He had complied fully with the investigation. 

"He will not jeopardise or undermine the justice system," Moruri said. Moruri said his client was still waiting for his pension payout, and he needed to attend to it personally.

Makhotsa was also locked in a labour dispute with his former employer. Advocate Tshotlego Makamedi, for accused two, Lipholo, told the court that his client was previously convicted of stock theft.

His client lives in Bloemfontein with his wife, whom he recently married, and their four children.

Makamedi said it was unlikely that Lipholo would evade trial and would not make any threats to any witnesses. Lipholo also did not know any witnesses in the matter. 

"The applicant indicated that should he be released on bail, he will stand trial and attend all court appearances," he said. Makamedi argued that it was clear that this court should find it in favour of Lipholo to release him on bail.

He told the court that no witnesses are known to Lipholo. 

Makamedi submitted that Lipholo had been on bail before and released into the community and nothing had happened.

Makamedi argued that Lipholo's release on bail would not undermine the public confidence in the justice system nor spark a public outcry.

The case continues.