Veerappan: How Did the Criminal Bandit Die?

Veerappan, aka Koose Munisamy Veerappan, started as an elephant poacher, but as his crimes grew in magnitude, he became one of the most feared criminals South India has ever seen. In fact, at the time of his death, he was wanted for the murders of around 184 people, and the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had spent over $30 million in an effort to bring him to justice. Netflix’s ‘The Hunt for Veerappan’ chronicles the jungle brigand’s rise and fall, including his 2004 death, which came under much controversy. Let’s delve into the details surrounding the incident and find out how Veerappan met his end, shall we?

Who Was Veerappan?

A native of Gopinatham, Kollegal, in Karnataka, Veerappan, was born into poverty and had a pretty challenging childhood. However, he committed his first crime at ten in 1962, when he and his uncle, Sevi Gounder, gunned an elephant down and even apprehended three forest officials before killing them. In the following years, Veerappan joined a gang of poachers and began hunting one elephant after the other until he claimed no tuskers were left roaming the jungles of MM Hills.

Astonishingly official figures later mentioned that Veerappan was responsible for smuggling around $2.6 million worth of ivory. Once the number of elephants began dwindling, he turned his attention toward sandalwood trees, which grew abundantly in the forest. At that time, the government monopolized sandalwood, and it was illegal to cut down such trees. Regardless, Veerappan did not let such a rule deter him, as he smuggled around $22 million worth of sandalwood out of Karnataka. Naturally, such activities caught the attention of forest officials, who were determined to stop him at any cost.

Yet, instead of fleeing the area once pursued, Veerappan decided to retaliate, which started an indiscriminate series of murders that appeared to have no end. Readers will be interested to know that he was also arrested in 1986 but escaped from the Boodipada forest guest house under mysterious circumstances. Since it was getting difficult for the forest department to handle Veerappan alone, the Karnataka police force soon joined in and started a special task branch dedicated to capturing the forest brigand. Meanwhile, he amassed a gang of over 100 people who were armed to the teeth and willing to die for their leader.

Thus, the state of Karnataka soon witnessed a horrific bloodbath in which numerous gang members and police officials were killed as they clashed in the jungles of MM Hills. In 1990, Veerappan married Muthulakshmi, and at one point in time, she began living in the wilderness with her husband. Moreover, by this time, he had expanded his operations into the state of Tamil Nadu, forcing the police of that state to organize another Special Task Force. Still, even though Muthulakshmi was apprehended in 1993, her husband remained out of the reach of the police.

The Fatal Shootout: Veerappan’s Death in the Firefight

On the show, Muthulakshmi claimed Veerappan got even more ferocious after her arrest and kidnapped local politicians for ransom. As a matter of fact, in 2000, the forest brigand marched into the bungalow of Kannada movie star Dr. Rajkumar and kidnapped him at gunpoint. Still, even though the latter was released unharmed about 108 days after the abduction, Veerappan continued his criminal activities and abducted former minister H. Nagappa in August 2002, who was found dead about three months later.

This was the final straw, as it encouraged the police to step up their operations and shoot Veerappan on sight. The operation to kill him was codenamed Operation Cocoon, and it involved disguising a police van as a working ambulance. The disguised vehicle was stationed right outside the Papirappati village in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu. On October 18, 2004, an undercover policeman lured Veerappan and three associates, Sethukuli Govindan, Chandre Gowdar, and Sethumani, into the vehicle.

At the same time, the driver of the ambulance was a police officer in disguise, and numerous officers were lying in wait in the village as well as along the road. According to official reports, once the ambulance was driven out of the village, the driver exited the vehicle, and police officers surrounded it before asking Veerappan to surrender. However, he and his associates retaliated by shooting at the officers, and all four criminals were killed in the ensuing firefight. Interestingly, there have been numerous controversies over Veerappan’s death, with some theorists claiming that the person killed was not the forest brigand since his mustache wasn’t grand enough.

Besides, an initial investigation indicated that the police report did not recount the actual incident where Veerappan was allegedly killed. Nonetheless, authorities soon ended such rumors as they established Veerappan’s identity through his fingerprints, and a detailed forensic investigation showed he was killed precisely as described in the report. Now, while some protestors believed he was shot for political gain, many wonder if he should have been apprehended and put on trial. Yet, to this day, the police claim their original target was to take Veerappan alive, and they would not have killed him had he not retaliated with gunfire.

Read More: Muthulakshmi: Where is Veerappan’s Wife Now?