Koresh was shot before fire

THE cult leader David Koresh was shot in the head and died before his headquarters were consumed by flames, according to investigators in Waco, Texas, yesterday.

Officials investigating the deaths of members of the Branch Davidian cult are satisfied that a badly burned body recovered from the ashes of their compound is that of the group's 33-year- old leader. The shattered skull has been reconstructed and shows Koresh was shot in the forehead.

Yesterday's announcement will dampen rumours that Koresh escaped the flames (his headquarters had underground tunnels), but it is unclear whether he committed suicide or was killed by someone else in the hours after government tanks launched a tear- gas attack on the compound.

Investigators say Koresh's corpse was found - alone - near his makeshift communications room where he spent days talking by telephone with FBI negotiators during a 51-day siege. Elsewhere amid the rubble, investigators found rockets, grenades and piles of ammunition.

Koresh's body, identified by dental records and X-rays, is the sixth corpse to be identified publicly, all of which show evidence of being shot. Some of the nine survivors have insisted that the Davidians did not commit suicide, but died in a fire started after a tank crushed a fuel container. Both the FBI and independent arson investigators say cult members started the blaze.

Two weeks after the fire, it is becoming apparent that some victims may never be identified. Koresh told negotiators that there were 95 people in his compound. Nine escaped, leaving an estimated 86 inside, but only 72 bodies have been found.

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