The missing handlebar moustache of forest brigand Veerappan has triggered speculation that it wasn't the sandalwood smuggler who was killed in Monday's encounter with the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force near Dharmapuri.
Also read: Sandalwood smuggler Veerappan shot dead | The Veerappan Saga
Hundreds of people have arrived in this small town to get a glimpse of the man whom they have seen only in newspapers and on television. Some of them, interestingly, have demanded that Veerappan's body should be displayed in public.
"He looked different. The moustache is not there," Senthil Kumar, a local provision store owner, said. "But let's hope he is Veerappan...may be he trimmed his moustache," Kumar added.
There are also whispers that it could be a fake encounter.
Veerappan was intercepted by an STF team while he was on his way to a hospital in an ambulance. He was killed on the spot in the encounter that ensued.
"I am a little suspicious. The missing moustache...the injuries. This has all happened far too fast," said a local leader. He did not want his identity revealed.
Police officers assembled at the government hospital said there is no truth in the rumours. "It looks like he has not been keeping his trademark moustache for some months now. May be it was because he was not keeping well," a senior officer said.
When a question was put to Tamil Nadu Special Task Force chief Additional DGP K Vijaykumar on Veerappan's moustache at a press conference this morning, he said: "He has trimmed his moustache. He was not wearing his traditional green clothes. He was dressed in white. DNA tests have not been done yet. But we are sure the man killed is Veerappan."