SOUTH African police say they have arrested a top rugby player over three axe murders allegedly carried out in revenge for the gang-rape and subsequent HIV-infection of his daughter.

The man, who played for the Blue Bulls, one of the country’s top teams, was arrested in the eastern coastal city of Durban in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

One victim was decapitated and two others hacked in the neck until dead, in a frenzied rampage last week.

The accused, who was not named to protect the identity of his daughter, is due to appear in court in Durban today.

There were unconfirmed reports that the accused had also played for the Springboks, the national rugby team.

A police spokesman, Vincent Mdunge, told The Times the three bodies were found in a lower middle-class area of the city.

Only the decapitated man, a black resident of the area, was identified.

Mr Mdunge said police raided the nearby home of the accused and found an axe and the bloodied clothing of one of the victims. “When they pounced on him they found an axe, which we believe is the murder weapon, clothes with blood stains and a hired car that we suspect he could have used during the alleged attacks,” he said.

A fourth man who escaped the attack, which took place last week, told local newspapers that he had been confronted by a man in a frenzied state who accused him of being a rapist and infecting his daughter.

“As the axe came down towards my head, I ducked and it scratched my stomach,” Khangelani Mdluli, 27, told reporters.

The incident is certain to ignite another ferocious debate in the country over some of the highest crime levels in the world and, in particular, violent attacks on women.

Many callers to radio stations yesterday expressed sympathy for the alleged murderer and warned that if action was not taken by the state to protect people then an ever-growing number of citizens would take the law into their own hands.

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