Rose, the goat that found international celebrity last year after being forced into marriage with a Sudanese man, has died after accidentally swallowing a plastic bag.

The town of Juba in southern Sudan, if not exactly in mourning, at least has the satisfaction of having had the world in stitches, having been the source of one of the internet's best-read news items.

It is a story that began in February last year when the BBC Monitoring Service reported that a Mr Alifi had been startled by a noise in the middle of the night. Leaving the safety of his wattle hut, Mr Alifi went outside to find a stranger engaged in indecorous behaviour with his goat.

"When I asked him, 'What are you doing there?', he fell off the back of the goat, so I captured and tied him up." The intruder, Charles Tombe, was hauled before a council of elders. He told them that he was drunk at the time he took a fancy to Rose, and was ordered to pay Mr Alifi a "dowry" of 15,000 Sundanese dinars - about £25 - as he was considered to have used the goat "as his wife".

Southern Sudan is a conservative society. If a man is caught having sex with a girl he is expected to marry her immediately in order to save her honour and that of her family. That was the basis of Mr Tombe's punishment.

Last seen heading off into the Sudanese sunset, Rose and Mr Tombe were believed to have lived happily ever after.

After the hearing, Mr Alifi said: "We have given him the goat, and as far as we know they are still together."

Once the original report in the Juba Post was picked up by the BBC it flew around the world. Tom Rhodes, a Briton who helped to found the Juba Post in 2004, is astonished by the reaction to his story. At first he was concerned that readers would accuse him of making them a laughing stock.

He need not have worried. Although strangers occasionally accost him in the street - as one of the few white people in Juba he is hardly inconspicuous - it is only to congratulate him on the story. "It shows the Sudanese have a sense of humour."

A year after it was reported it still tops the lists of most-read stories. A Google search for "goat, Sudan, marry" returns 178,000 pages. The original BBC news item is still attracting 100,000 hits a day.

Tragedy struck last month when Rose swallowed a plastic bag as she scavenged for food scraps on the streets of Juba.

She left a male kid - goat, not human - and a grieving widower. It is not known whether she was cremated or turned into curry.