THE major manhunt for the serial rapist wanted by police over sickening sexual attacks on a Grade 7 pupil, his friend's mother and ex-girlfriend has ended after the suspect was found hanging.

Evil, coward Limukani Sibanda, 24, knew he had nowhere to run, and apparently took his life by hanging himself from a tree in the Khandamhlophe area of Madlambuzi, near Plumtree.

A villager from the area who was herding cattle found the suspected rapist's body on Wednesday evening and alerted the police.

Police from Madlambuzi retrieved the decomposing body yesterday morning.

A police source said Sibanda used a rope to tie himself to a tree.

A massive manhunt led by the police and village vigilantes had been underway after Sibanda's reign of terror left families broken and temporarily forced the closure of a school.

Khandamhlophe village head, Doubt Moyo, said the body was discovered in a bushy area close to his homestead.

Our news crew visited Sibanda's homestead in Plumtree where a few relatives were gathered after being informed that he had died.

His maternal grandmother, Julia Nyathi, said she was shocked by her grandson's death.

"I felt weak in the knees when I received news of Limukani's death. It was hard enough for me to accept that he had become a serial rapist and destitute and I cannot believe that he is gone," she said in between sobs.

She said Plumtree police broke the news of her grandson's death to her.

"I think it has been several days since he committed suicide because his body was in the early stages of decomposition. Limukani probably realised that he had nowhere to go since the police and villagers were looking all over for him. This saddens me because this boy grew up under my care," she added.

Sibanda's mother died while he was in primary school and his father lives and works in Botswana.

A relative who was also at the homestead said they were making arrangements to travel to Madlambuzi for funeral arrangements.

A number of Madlambuzi villagers withdrew their children from Tsukuru Primary School, which is 20km away from the village, following a spate of rape cases blamed on Sibanda.

In his first vicious sex attack, he allegedly raped a Grade 7 pupil and then tried to throttle her, but she hung on and survived the ordeal.

An hour later, he molested his best friend's 42-year-old mother, broke both her arms and fractured her skull before raping her and robbing her of R700. He also left her for dead.

The woman was first admitted to Plumtree District Hospital before being transferred to the United Bulawayo Hospitals for specialist medical care.

In the third attack, Sibanda raped his ex-girlfriend from a neighbouring community in the Hingwe area.

Sibanda's death comes weeks after a feared inyanga in the community predicted that the alleged rapist would be murdered by villagers if he was not arrested.

His death brings to an end the massive manhunt for a man who spread terror in Madlambuzi.

Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Philani Ndebele said he had not yet received a detailed report of the alleged rapist's death.

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