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Manhunt ends with grisly find in Utah

ONE OF the most intense police manhunts in recent US history appears to have come to an end with the discovery of a pile of sun-bleached bones believed to belong to one of two fugitives who killed a policeman and vanished into the south-western desert 17 months ago.

The body, reduced to little more than a skeleton, was discovered by Navajo deer hunters tangled in the roots of a cedar tree in south-eastern Utah. The corpse was clad in a bulletproof vest and a parka stuffed with pipe bombs. Nearby lay a semiautomatic rifle, military-style helmet, handgun and camping gear.

The local sheriff said he was confident the body was one of the two men hunted by two dozen law enforcement agencies and around 200 officers. The physical evidence suggested the man died within a few days of the start of the manhunt and suffered a massive head trauma - either the result of the fugitive shooting himself or being shot by his fellow outlaw. Investigators said the chances of the other man still being alive were virtually zero.

Monty Pilon, Jason Wayne McVean and a third man, Robert Matthew Mason, began their crime spree in Durango, Colorado, where they stole a water truck in May 1998. Heading west, they killed a policeman in the town of Cortez, abandoned the truck for a flatbed lorry, wounded two more officers in Utah and continued their getaway on foot.

Mason's body was found a week later with a gunshot through his head, but the other two vanished without trace.