He made every fighter of his guerrilla outfit wear a cyanide capsule, to be swallowed when they were facing arrest, but Vellupillai Prabhakaran himself did not carry one when he was killed by the Sri Lankan troops, in the last phase of the 30-year-old bloody civil war.
Sri Lankan troops did not find any cyanide capsule on the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam leader's body after he was killed, while they recovered cyanide pills from many of the LTTE cadres and leaders killed in the military campaign.
"Prabhakaran did not have a cyanide capsule on him. We did not find any such thing. Many other LTTE cadres had capsules with them, but not Prabhakaran," top defence sources said.
Interestingly, the 54-year-old Tamil Tigers leader carried his identity card and other items with him, which were later recovered by the army, they said. Prabhakaran was reputed to have been wearing a cyanide capsule around his neck and encouraged his fighters to do the same, saying it was better to take their life than be captured alive by Sri Lankan soldiers.
The sources said Prabhakaran was in his uniform when he was shot dead by the troops and his dress was later removed to see whether there were any birth marks.
It was widely believed that Prabhakaran carried a cyanide pill with him when he visited the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 at his residence in New Delhi. Security officials had a tough time persuading him to leave the cyanide capsule before meeting Gandhi, but could not succeed.
The LTTE chief had vowed never to be captured alive by the Sri Lankan forces and had even told his bodyguards to douse him in petrol and burn him alive if he was facing arrest. The sources clarified that he was killed by the troops and did not commit suicide as speculated by a section of media and the Tamil Diaspora.
The defence sources also said the bodies of Prabhakaran's wife, younger son and daughter have not been recovered yet. However, they refused to elaborate further.
They added that though LTTE leader Pottu Amman's body had not been recovered as yet, they believed that he was dead.
The sources said nearly 200 LTTE leaders and 400 cadres were killed between May 17 and May 19. They said the leaders included heads of various sections of the rebel outfit -- political, cultural and others.