Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, nicknamed Popeye, passed away in the early hours of this morning morning in the state hospital of Colombian capital Bogota – where he had been battling cancer
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Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, nicknamed Popeye, passed away in the early hours of this morning (Image: AFP)
Drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s top hitman – known as 'Popeye' – has died.
Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, nicknamed Popeye, passed away in the early hours of this morning morning in the state hospital of Colombian capital Bogota – where he had spent the five weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.
Colombia’s Prison Service INPEC confirmed the 57-year-old’s death in a tweet, saying: “INPEC can confirm Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, alias Popeye, died in the early hours of this morning (THURS).”
Popeye had confessed to committing around 300 murders and ordering hits on another 3,000 targets during his time as Escobar’s enforcer in the 1980s.
He was the mastermind behind his boss’s infamous car bombs during his drug cartel’s war against their rivals and the Colombian state.
Jhon Jairo Velasquez, aka Popeye, Pablo Escobar's top hitman
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
He even murdered his girlfriend on Escobar’s orders and bombed a commercial plane Colombian presidential candidate Cesar Gaviria was supposed to be on in November 1989, killing more than 100 people.
He was released from prison in 2014 after 23 years behind bars but re-arrested in 2018 as part of an investigation into extortion before being diagnosed with stomach cancer.
He claimed after his 2014 jail release in an interview that being a professional killer was like a “day at the office.”
He said: “You have to understand I was a professional killer. Whenever I took a life, I didn’t feel anything. Not shame, not sadness, not happiness, it was simply like a day at the office carrying out Don Pablo’s orders.
Drug lord Pablo Escobar was responsible for thousands of deaths
Popeye visits the tomb of his former drug lord boss Escobar at the Montesacro Cemetery in Medellin
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
“Killing was too easy. I was in a war and they were killing my family, my friends and my colleagues. I found them beheaded and with hands and limbs cut off."
Last year officials were forced to demolished Pablo Escobar’s former fortress apartment because it was becoming a sick tourist spot.
His old abode, which is an eight-storey “brutalist” block in one of the swankiest areas of Medellin in Colombia was knocked down on Friday as part of a plan to de-glamorise the legacy of the “Cocaine King”.
His former stronghold, known as the Monaco building, was razed to the ground using controlled explosives in front of a crowd of 1,600 people – including relatives of some of his victims.
Now the area will be turned into a commemorative area to honour all the thousands of people who died in the drug trade in the 80s and 90s.
Drug lord Escobar, who died aged 44, smuggled 80 per cent of the cocaine that entered the USA and at the height of his career was turning over $21.9 billion every year.
Despite him being well loved in his home town because of his charitable works, Colombia became the murder capital of the world as various drug cartels vied for supremacy.
In 1992 there was 27,000 deaths.