Once described as “the most dangerous man of all times” (by Robert Ludlum, who used him in his Bourne novels), Ilich Ramírez Sánchez — named Ilich after Lenin — was the Venezuelan revolutionary who once claimed to have killed more than 1,500 people in the pursuit of Palestinian liberation. At the peak of his infamy, he was wanted in at least five European countries and was given the nickname Carlos the Jackal after a copy of Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Day of the Jackal was found in his belongings and mistakenly believed to be his.
He was not pleased with the appellation the Guardian bestowed upon him, ‘Jackal’ also being nickname of an unpopular police-chief in his native Venezuela. Carlos’ most audacious attacks included shooting of a Marks & Spencer CEO, bombing two trains and railway station in France and kidnapping of 11 oil ministers in Vienna in 1975, which elicited an estimated £10m in ransom. He eluded the CIA and French intelligence with the help of Gadaffi of Libya, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and connections that stretched beyond the Iron Curtain.
Carlos was arrested in 1994 in Sudan and is now serving life imprisonment for the murder of two French intelligence officials and their informant in 1975. He married a French lawyer while serving time, and now spent the remainder of his unhurried life alternately praising Osama bin Laden and sneering at Al-Qaeda’s ‘amateur’ skills from inside La Sante prison.
“Carlos is forever identified with the above black-and-white head shot in which he wears tinted goggle shades and a pimp’s leather jacket, his sideburns extending to his jawline: the very model of the insouciant, globe-trotting 1970s gangster. For those who romanticize criminality, the shot is an irresistible, silk-screen worthy image of cool. So taken with it was the druggy outlaw U.K. funk-pop band the Black Grape that they made a colorized version of the photo the cover of their debut album, 1995’s It’s Great When You’re Straight … Yeah.” (Vanity Fair). The photo was taken by a British journalist named Nik Wheeler.