teacher found dead
The frantic search for a Mpumalanga high school teacher, reported missing a month ago, ended when her battered and decomposed body was found in Witbank.
Lulu Thibela, a teacher at Maripe High School in Bushbuckridge, was last seen on July 13 by members of the ADT Security company in Witbank.
Thibela, 48, had a breakdown on her way from visiting her son in Kimberley. According to the police she asked the security guards to purchase petrol for her from a local filling station while she remained in the car.
Captain Leonard Hlathi said: "When the guards returned with the petrol she was nowhere to be found. Nothing appeared to be missing from the vehicle.
"A missing persons docket was opened and handed over to the organised crime unit last week (a month after she was reported missing) for investigation.
"A day later unit members found her decomposed body in the Klipfontein sewage dam in Witbank. The body showed signs that she had been gang-raped and brutally assaulted."
Hlathi said an intensive investigation by the unit led to the arrest of a 40-year-old man from Ackerville in Witbank, who allegedly "confessed to the kidnapping, raping and murder" of the schoolteacher.
Hlathi said the suspect had since been linked to 16 other rape and murder cases committed around Witbank. Other bodies had also been dumped in the notorious sewage dam.
"He provided the police with the particulars of his accomplices," Hlathi said.
"The deceased's ribs had been smashed and she had sustained multiple skull fractures and a gash to the neck.
"It appears the neck wound was inflicted with an axe.
"Apart from the rape we believe that the thugs also murdered this woman for her cellphone and handbag, since nothing else was taken from the car.
"One of them traded the stolen cellphone for liquor at a local tavern."
Hlathi appealed to the public to assist the police in locating two men known only as Mnaka and Lolo "who might help us with our investigations".
Anyone with information can contact Hlathi on 082-462-0804 or Captain William Gcabashe on 082-319-3481.