Milosevic's warder describes a couple cocooned in their own world

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For almost three months, each prison meeting of Slobodan Milosevic and Mira Markovic was a ritual of love, tenderness and devotion.

"They looked like a couple deeply in love, like too young people," Dragisa Blanusa, a former warder of Belgrade Central Prison, recalls in his just-published book I Guarded Milosevic.

Mr Milosevic, who was transferred from the Belgrade prison to The Hague on June 28, will be 60 years old next month. His wife is 59.

Mr Blanusa lost his job when the book came out this week, after being accused of indiscreet behaviour. "They didn't hide their feelings ... Sometimes they had to be separated as they kissed too long when saying goodbye," he wrote.

The pair have been together for more than four decades. Their relationship has often been described as pathological. They lived cocooned in their own, separate world. Mr Milosevic called Mira's name into his mobile phone after he was arrested and transported to the central prison at 4.45am on 1 April, the book claims.

He wanted her to travel to his prison cell to make his bed, but Mr Blanusa told him that this was not possible.

The couple are high school sweethearts, and address each other with typical Serbian love phrases such as "my little one" or "my happiness". During visiting hours in Belgrade, where Mr Milosevic was held in solitary confinement, he and his wife often held each other's face in their hands and kissed.

Ms Markovic brought home-made food to the jail and cried whenever Mr Milosevic commented on prison conditions. He liked roast meat, a lot of vegetables, fruit juice and bottled mineral water. "Try a piece of this pie, Mira made it," the former Yugloslav president is reported to have once said, proudly, to a prison guard.

Under pressure from Ms Markovic, her husband was taken to the military hospital in April, soon after his incarceration on 1 April, because of heart problems. "My darling, please don't die on me here," she cried as he was taken away.

Mr Milosevic was worried about her too. He gently comforted his wife whenever she complained of being tired or having high phone or electricity bills. He would rearrange a bandage on her ankle after she hurt it last month. Mira simply put her leg into his lap to do the job.

After a rally outside the prison by some 40,000 hardline Milosevic supporters, Ms Markovic said: "Slobo, I know no one in Serb history who is as popular as you."

The couple's daughter, Marija, acted differently when she visited. She would become hysterical, saying: "You didn't have to give up like you did," Marija would shout. "I need a father with me and not in jail. Once they let you out from here, I'll forbid you from going back into politics ... You're too smart for that." Mr Milosevic complained to one guard: "Marija screams, Mira cries and I have to endure all that."