India will seek forensic evidence from Sri Lanka to confirm the deaths of Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran and his intelligence head to finally close the case on the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi 18 years ago.
Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman, who oversaw all covert killings in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), were the last of two suspects still wanted in India for the killing of Gandhi, who was blown up by a woman suicide bomber at an election rally near Chennai May 21, 1991.
The LTTE initially denied killing Gandhi but in later years some of its leaders privately and otherwise voiced regrets over his death, which led to the Tigers being outlawed in India in 1992.
But the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in what is acknowledged to be one of finest investigations in the world of crime, proved conclusively that Gandhi was killed by the LTTE, on the specific orders of Prabhakaran, the killer band reporting directly to Pottu Amman.
A total of 41 people were arraigned for the crime, 14 of them Indians and the others Sri Lankan Tamils.
Of the 41 as many as 12 - 11 of them Sri Lankans - committed suicide during the investigation, mostly by taking cyanide, the hallmark of LTTE. Twenty-six people faced trial and three were officially declared proclaimed offenders.
These three were Prabhakaran, Pottu Amman and Akhila, the LTTE women's wing leader who was killed by Sri Lankan security forces in 1995.
The reported killings of Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman on Monday accounts for the last of suspects in the Gandhi case who could never be caught.
The case is being pursued at the TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act) Court at Poonamallee near Kancheepuram, close to Chennai.
According to CBI sources, once the evidence regarding the deaths of Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman is made available, the court will be told that they are dead and the case will come to a final stop.
Gandhi, who as prime minister sent the Indian Army to Sri Lanka's northeast in 1987 to end Tamil separatism, was killed when the suicide bomber, who was strapped with explosives under her clothes, exploded herself while pretending to touch his feet.
The CBI formally registered a case May 24, 1991 and began its investigation. A chargesheet was filed May 20, 1992 and the trial began Jan 19, 1994.
On June 5, 1995, India formally submitted to Sri Lanka a request that Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman should be extradited if and when they were caught.
On Jan 28, 1998, a court sentenced all those who were tried to death. The only exceptions were Prabhakaran, Pottu Amman and Akhila since they did not face trial.
The Supreme Court modified the verdict in May 1999, confirming capital punishment only in four cases and sentencing three to life. The others were set free against time they had spent in prison.
CBI officers involved in the Gandhi assassination case still recall with pride how they pursued the suspects in and beyond Tamil Nadu, in the process decimating an elaborate network the LTTE had built for itself in the state.
"We chased them on foot, on motorcycles, in cars, even by helicopters," one officer, who did not wish to be identified, told IANS. "There were nights when we slept in our cars on the roadside. Once I did not get to sleep for 12 straight nights. In the end, the LTTE was stunned by what we achieved."