As a child, Veerappan looked up to Mammattiyan, a bandit from Tamil Nadu’s Salem district who was killed in an inter-gang fight. Veerappan took to a life of poaching and tree-felling when he was 12 years old, and was initiated into killing elephants and sandalwood-smuggling by a relative, a smuggler himself. It is believed that Veerappan announced his entry into violent crime by murdering Mammattiyan’s brother. In 1965 the forest officials arrested him for killing an elephant but he escaped, one of the first such escapes in his long life of crime. At one time he was arrested from Bangalore in 1986, but he again escaped from the clutches of police. Alonwith several forest officers, his victims included the Karnataka Deputy Conservator of Forests, Srinivasan, in 1991, and the Karnataka Superintendent of Police, Harikrishnan, in 1992. Following a landmine attack on the police near Mettur town in Salem district, a Special Task Force was constituted to deal with Veerappan in 1993. In 1997, he kidnapped nine forest officials in the Burude forests.
In 2000, Veerappan abducted Kannada film icon Rajkumar from the actor’s ancestral farmhouse at Gajanur. After the Rajkumar saga, the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments revived the Special Task Force (STF) operations against Veerappan. Veerappan also kidnapped former minister H. Nagappa, whose body was later found in the forest. After K. Vijay Kumar took over as head of the STF in October 2003, a covert operation was planned to trap Veerappan. Members of the team, posing as petty traders, contract workers, drivers and conductors, mixed with villagers in the area, some even managing to infiltrate Veerappan’s gang. An STF mole in the gang is said to have arranged an ambulance to take an unsuspecting Veerappan for treatment. The ambulance would, of course, be driven by a cop in disguise. On 18 October 2004, the STF plan worked according to script. The vehicle was ambushed and Veerappan and his three aides killed, a triumphant STF later said. Veerappan carried a Rs 50-lakh reward on his head for murder, poaching and smuggling sandalwood. His ivory haul is estimated at 88,000 pounds. It was perhaps the longest ever manhunt in India, that cost the nation over 130 police personnel and Rs 1,000 crore.