South Korea's most wanted man, whose heavily decomposed body was found in an orchard last month, had evaded arrest by hiding behind an upstairs wall of a wooden cabin, with suitcases of cash at hand, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The body of Yoo Byung-un, 73, wanted in connection with the sinking of a ferry in April, was only identified this week, more than a month after he was found lying next to a copy of a book he had written, empty bottles of alcohol nearby, ending the country's biggest and most dramatic manhunt.
"We did all we could to find Yoo and are devastated we couldn't find him alive," KimHoe-jong, aseniorprosecutor, told a media briefing in Incheon, the city west of Seoul where the ferry began its last voyage.
For two months, wanted posters offering a reward for Yoo's capture faded under the summer sun or disintegrated in the rain while thousands of police combed the country looking for a man who co-founded a church, held an exhibition of photographs at the Louvre in Paris and did jail time for fraud.
On June 12, the same day farmer Park Yoon-seok found Yoo's body in his plum orchard, thousands of police and prosecutors were busy raiding Yoo's sprawling religious compound 215 km away, going as far as searching for tunnels with mechanical diggers.
Yoo headed the family that owned the company that operated the Sewol, a ferry that capsized on April 16 on a journey to the holiday island of Jeju, killing about 300 people, most of them schoolchildren, and triggering an outpouring of grief across the country.