India’s most wanted bandit, accused of killing police, slaughtering elephants and kidnapping a film star, has been killed in a jungle shoot-out after more than three decades on the run.
Koose Muniswamy Veerappan, 60, was shot dead in a gun battle with police in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Officials said police received a tip that Veerappan, who had a Ј250,000 bounty on his head, was hiding near the village of Paparapatti.
The flamboyant outlaw enjoyed a level of celebrity comparable to Bollywood film stars. Some politicians were also said to be in his pay and police said Veerappan used terror tactics to stay on the run - allegedly stringing up the bodies of suspected police informants from trees.
Veerappan - whose assumed name translates as "brave" - had been on the run since the late 1960s, when he fell in with ivory smugglers, reports Scotsman.
According to Times of India, coming from the Tamil-speaking Padayachi family in the village of Gopinatham in Karnataka, bordering Tamil Nadu, Veerappan began as the elephant poacher and sandalwood smuggler getting into tussle with the politics of the forest banditdom.
But his sandalwood smuggling business, found him establishing political connections in the 1980s and that is believed to have helped Veerappan to be more elusive than the dense habitat he knew so well. His assistance to political parties of all hues had also helped him to remain a mythical figure for most part of his career as the forest brigand.
Catching Veerappan alive would have been impossible as there were too many skeletons inside the closet for the political bigwigs. At the same time, Veerappan skirted any lure for surrender, unlike the notorious bandits in the north, for fear of being bumped off, especially by his enemies in the police force.
Veerappan was born in Gopinatham, a village in Karnataka, in 1952. He started smuggling in 1969 and was arrested for the first time in 1972.
In 1996 he offered to surrender in exchange for an amnesty. But none was forthcoming, and in 1997 he kidnapped nine forestry service officials and held them for 44 days. Later that year he again offered to surrender in exchange for a two-year sentence and a cash pay-off.
In July 1993, Veerappan - who had a 20 million rupee (Ј243,000) bounty on his head - was said to have strangled his newly born female baby because she was the third girl in a row born to him.
When asked what she saw in him, Veerappan's shepherdess wife Muthulakshmi reportedly replied: "His moustache and notoriety," reports Guardian.