A palace that housed the man dubbed "Chemical Ali" for his role in gas attacks on northern Iraq during the offensive against the Kurds in 1988 has been looted by the people he used to govern.
Al-Majid on Syrian TV January 2003
The Iraqi president's paternal cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, has vanished deep into the
heart of the paramilitary death squads he still controls in southern Iraq.
But the people who had the most
reason to fear the former leader of the Mukhabarat - Saddam Hussein's secret police - have reduced his home to ruins.
And at the bottom of the 25-foot (7.62-metre) swimming pool - in the heart of the desert where the children of Iraqi farmers beg for water at roadsides - lies a notebook.
Each page bears the stamp: "Ali Hassan al-Majid, leader of the southern area" and a quote from the Koran: "Your victory is
from Allah and no-one can ever defeat you".
In the entrance hall, a smashed photograph shows Saddam Hussein with one of his generals.
It could be al-Majid - but the faces have been torn out.
The elaborate wooden fretwork at the door, huge
smoked glass windows and chandeliers lie smashed on the stone-tiled floor
Two plush bathroom suites have also been smashed and the
contents of every room ripped out - probably to be sold as scrap
by Iraqis desperate for food.
British officers were told about the mansion while carrying out "hearts and minds"
work near Basra, southern Iraq.
Captain Ken Jolley, 40, of King's Lynn, Norfolk, who has led the patrols,
said: "They showed us an army barracks where tank shells were hidden and then
said, 'Did you know Chemical Ali lives down the road?'"
The place has
been ransacked, just about gutted, everything's been ripped out
The soldiers were led to a Moorish-style mansion
hidden from the road by a barrier and guardhouse, a long, winding drive and high
banks of sand, designed to protect inhabitants from gunfire.
Corporal Nyall Jenkins, 33, of Selby, North Yorkshire, said: "The place has
been ransacked, just about gutted, everything's been ripped out.
"Obviously the locals have gone to town on it, just ripped out everything
they could get.
"It's a palace and they're living in total squalor."
Corporal Jenkins, whose wife is due to give birth to their first child in seven
weeks, added: "It's been an eye-opener.
"I can't believe the way people are living here, it's incredible.
"Children begging at the sides of streets, begging for food and water in bare
"I think I feel it more with children now, because of my present