By Ivana Sekularac
BELGRADE, July 22 (Reuters) - Radovan Karadzic, one of the world’s most wanted men, lived for years in a Belgrade suburb posing as a doctor of alternative medicine, hiding his famous face behind long hair, a bushy beard and thick glasses.
Pictures given to Reuters by people who knew him as his alter ego show his face, ruddy in his heyday as the leader of Bosnian Serb forces, now sunken and shallow. His eyes are dull behind old-fashioned, tinted frames.
The slightly curved nose is the only obvious similarity.
The trademark salt-and-pepper mane, perfectly coiffed throughout the 1992-95 war, had turned from sleek to frizzy. He wore it in a plaited top-knot, pure white mixed with flashes of black.
In another picture released by Serbian authorities, he looks tired and bespectacled, not the robust politician charged with orchestrating the murder of 8,000 people in Srebrenica and being responsible for the death of 11,000 in the 43-month siege of Sarajevo.
Karadzic lived quietly in New Belgrade, a sprawling suburb of massive, anonymous tower blocks that can house dozens of flats. Officials say he used the name Dr. Dragan David Dabic, and made a living as a practitioner of alternative medicine.
Last October he showed up at a wellness convention organised by ‘Healthy Life’ magazine, and introduced himself to the editor as a neuro-psychiatrist who wanted to contribute articles.
That part of his new identity was closest to his old self: Karadzic had studied in Sarajevo and qualified as a psychiatrist specialising in neurosis and depression.
He liked to write, sometimes morbid and surreal poetry, sometimes children’s poems.
"He was a kind man, with good manners, quiet and witty," Goran Kojic," the magazine’s editor told Reuters.
"He said he was a psychiatrist who does energy therapies. I told him we were not able to pay him and could only give him an issue of the magazine for free.
"He was not physically fit, but I would say he was mentally fit."
Kojic said Karadzic did not have a Bosnian accent.
"I asked where he was from and he said he was from the Krajina region. I think he told me he had children. I doubted he had a degree because he didn’t specify where he was working. He never showed me his diploma, he said his wife left it in the United States."
As the soft-spoken Dr Dabic, Karadzic held lectures and wrote articles comparing popular meditation techniques with ‘Orthodox Meditation’ a silent technique practiced by monks in Orthodox monasteries.
He was also interested in healing through the optimal use of ‘vital energy’, a quasi-mystical, non-physical dimension of the body, similar to the Chinese notion of ‘Qi’ and the Indian concept of the ‘chakra’ centres of energy in the body.
"He was very religious," said a woman who works at the magazine and knew him. "He had his hair in a plait in order to be able to receive different energies. He was a very nice man."
Karadzic appears to have lived comfortably within his new identity and to have moved freely. He liked being with people and getting attention.
An anti-cancer society in the northern town of Sombor still has on its website the announcement of an April lecture of Dr. Dragan Dabic on "similarities between meditation and orthodox meditation".
In another lecture programme, he described himself as a "researcher in the fields of psychology and bio-energy".
"I cannot believe it was him," Kojic said. "He was walking freely in the centre of the town. We talked a lot about family life. I am very sorry to find out that the man I knew is Radovan Karadzic, and that he was arrested. I feel miserable." (Additional reporting by Ljilja Cvekic; Writing by Ellie Tzortzi; Editing by Janet Lawrence; firstname.lastname@example.org; Belgrade Newsroom))