Metal community mourns Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, 49, who died three years after contracting flesh-eating disease from spider bite

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American thrash metal guitarist Jeff Hanneman, a member of the seminal heavy metal band Slayer, has died aged 49 from liver failure in Southern California.

Hanneman, who wrote songs “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death”, had spent most of 2011 battling a flesh-eating disease contracted after he was bitten by a spider.

His death yesterday morning was confirmed in a statement on the band’s Facebook page: “Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11am this morning near his Southern California home.”

“Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure.”

Click here or on "View Images" for Jeff Hanneman a life in pictures

He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry.

Hanneman founded Slayer with fellow guitarist Kerry King in the early 1980s. The group was among the “big four” thrash metal groups of the era alongside Megadeth, Metallica and Anthrax.

Hanneman’s life changed considerably after he was bitten by a spider three years ago. An open letter published on the band’s website in 2011 described the devastating physical impact the bite had on him.

It said: “As you know, Jeff was bitten by a spider more than a year ago, but what you may not have known was that for a couple of days after he went to the ER, things were touch-and-go. There was talk that he might have to have his arm amputated, and we didn't know if he was going to pull through at all.”

“He was in a medically-induced coma for a few days and had several operations to remove the dead and dying tissue from his arm. So, understand, he was in really, really bad shape. It's been about a year since he got out of the hospital, and since then, he had to learn to walk again, he's had several painful skin grafts, he's been in rehab doing exercises to regain the strength in his arm; but best of all, he's been playing guitar.”

Hanneman had since been making progress with physiotherapy and had been writing songs with Slayer in anticipation of recording a new album this year.

Since news of his death broke the internet and social networking sites have been awash with tributes to Hanneman, especially from big names within the metal community.

Dave Ellefson of Megadeth said: “My condolences to Slayer and the Jeff Hanneman family today.”

A statement from Metallica simply read: "R.I.P Jeff Hanneman".

Guns N’Roses guitarist Slash tweeted: "Tragic and shocking news about Jeff Hanneman. He is going to missed by so many. What a sad day for Metal. RIP man".

Black Stone Cherry's official Twitter page said: “RIP Jeff Hanneman of Slayer, we lost a good one.”

Hammerfall paid tribute to him, saying: "How tragic, Jeff Hanneman has passed away! Slayer, believe it or not, has been quite instrumental in shaping the HF attitude, and we will miss him and his musical contributions to the world dearly. R.I.P., Jeff!"

The Recording Academy described Hanneman as "true trailblazer". A statement from president Neil Portnow called him "an intense and powerful guitarist and a force to be reckoned with on stage", adding: "The music industry has lost a true trailblazer, and our deepest sympathies go out to his family, his bandmates and fans around the world who mourn his untimely passing."

Papa Roach also paid tribute: “We’re saddened by the death of Slayer guitarist, Jeff Hanneman. Our prayers and best wishes to Slayer and Jeff’s family.”

Hatebreed said:  “We are extremely saddened by the news of Jeff Hanneman’s passing. Our deepest condolences to his family, friends, fans and the entire Slayer camp and their road crew. We would not be the band we are today without him and Slayer. Rest in peace, Jeff!”

Slayer have a large number of upcoming tour dates including playing several festivals in Europe in June and August and a South American tour in September.

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