A scientific autopsy has confirmed that Chilean president Salvador Allende committed suicide during the 1973 coup that toppled his socialist government, court officials announced.
British ballistics expert David Prayer said Allende died of two shots fired from an assault rifle that was held between his legs and under his chin and was set to fire automatically. The bullets blew out the top of his head and killed him instantly.
The forensics team’s conclusion is unanimous, Spanish expert Francisco Etxeberria said: “We have absolutely no doubt” that Allende committed suicide. Prayer said there were two bullets fired, two casings recovered and that there is no evidence a second person was involved in Allende’s death. That ruled out theories that Allende, the first socialist in the Americas to come to power at the ballot box, was killed by the military as troops stormed the presidential palace during the coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.
The palace in La Moneda was bombed by jets and the air thick with tear gas and smoke as the building went up in flames. Allende had ordered his allies to surrender, but he stayed behind. What happened next has always been shrouded in mystery.
The deposed president’s body was exhumed in May for its first authoritative autopsy as Chile’s independent judiciary began a criminal investigation into the death of Allende and hundreds of other victims of the Pinochet dictatorship.