It was one daring operation. The Tamil Nadu Special Task Force chief K Vijaykumar and his team have only one regret -- they could not catch Veerappan alive.
Also read: Sandalwood smuggler Veerappan shot dead | The Veerappan Saga
"We wish we could catch him alive and bring him to justice. But we are happy that our efforts have finally succeeded," Vijaykumar, who along with dozens of special police teams combed the jungles for many months for Veerappan, told rediff.com.
Police sources said one of Veerappan's informers tipped off the STF on Monday afternoon that the sandalwood smuggler was in the forest area near Dharmapuri.
For the past few days, very quietly, Vijaykumar and his men were working overtime to trap Veerappan. The media had no access to the STF operations. For months, there were reports of the STF noose tightening around Veerappan.
The reports were not off the mark.
In the past one year, the STF team had begun operating more systematically. Vijaykumar, a former commissioner of Chennai, ensured that his team worked under his strict guidance. "He was like one of us, always with us in the forests. It was his motivation and courage which finally helped us kill Veerappan," an STF personnel said.
He said the tip-off that Veerappan would pass by the Papparapatti reserve forest area came in on Monday afternoon.
By evening, STF men spanned across the forest area, which is just 10 km from Dharmapuri.
When the vehicle in which Veerappan was travelling appeared on the road, the policemen flashed a torch. One of Veerappan's associate opened fire. The STF team retaliated.
The encounter lasted just 15-20 minutes. "We never thought they would be all dead so quickly," said a police officer working with the STF.
STF teams were lying in wait for Veerappan at three different spots. "They had no way to escape. They could surrender or get killed," Vijaykumar said.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is expected to visit Dharmapuri general hospital on Tuesday.