The man who was dubbed the Facebook rapist because of how he used the social media platform to lure his victims, has died.

The department of correctional services on Tuesday confirmed that Thabo Bester was found dead in his single cell at the Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein around 03.35am.

“His cell had been on fire and he was found to have sustained some burn wounds,” said DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo.

The man dubbed “the Facebook rapist” says lust impelled him to rape a Johannesburg model in Durban two months ago.

Nxumalo said an investigation was under way to determine whether the fire was started intentionally.

Neither suicide nor foul play was ruled out.

Bester was first convicted of raping and robbing two aspirant models whom he had approached, pretending to be a model scout. In a separate trial, he was convicted of robbing and murdering a third woman, Nomfundo Tyhulu.

He claimed the two of them had been in a long-distance relationship and he killed her when she came to visit him, robbing her of her items and leaving her body in a Cape Town guest house.

He was 22 and 23 when he committed the crimes.

In October 2011, after pleading guilty to raping and robbing the two women, he burst into tears in the Durban magistrate’s court and explained what made him to commit his crimes.

Speaking in mitigation of his sentence, he told the court he had been raped by his grandmother’s friend when he was young, raped several times by a man who promised to look after him, and that he was gang-raped in prison.

He said when he told his grandmother about the abuse by her friend, it was like talking to a wall.

“My grandmother’s friend hurt me when he raped me, and I had an operation on my behind.”

The situation became worse when his grandmother died, and he had to live with his friends in a squatter camp. While living there he was approached by a man who promised to look after him, but who had then locked him in his house for days and raped him.

Bester told the court the difficulties he encountered forced him to commit crime.

“I resorted to crime to support myself. It is either you die or make a plan,” he said.

He had been found guilty of fraud in 2009 and sentenced to six months in jail with an option of paying a R1,500 fine.

“I did not have money to pay. They treated me badly in prison because they thought I was from a well-off family.”

He had been gang-raped. A bottle with soapy water was inserted into his anus while he was in prison. The report about his prison abuse was presented in court. It only mentioned the abuse, but not the rapes.

Seeking to persuade the court to give him a lesser sentence, Bester said he needed a second chance.

“I know I have done terrible things. This is not truly who I am. I want the opportunity to put things right,” he said.

If the court felt he did not deserve mercy, he would accept it.

Bester had been sentenced to more than 50 years which was later decreased to 30 years. For Tyhulu’s murder, he had been sentenced to life.