Senior Superintendent of Police (STF) Akhil Kumar, who led the operation against 47-year-old Gujjar carrying a reward of Rs two lakh on his head, said the encounter lasted for over one and half hours after which the police recovered the body from the scene which was identified as that of the dacoit by a local resident.
Kumar said the entire operation against Gujjar, who was wanted in more than 175 criminal cases, including those of murder and kidnapping, in the state, was kept a closely guarded secret and that was one of the reasons for its success.
He said there were five to six members of the gang when the encounter had broken out at Sitapur village under Ajitmal police station. The fate of the other gang members could not be immediately ascertained.
Kumar said a combing operation would be launched in the area once police reinforcements arrived at the scene.
Uttar Pradesh Home Secretary Alok Sinha said in Lucknow that Gujjar was shot dead in the encounter with STF in the jungles of Sitapur village.
Gujjar, who had created a reign of terror in the districts of eastern and central UP and also those of Madhya Pradesh bordering UP, had become a consummate folk anti-hero whose name was invoked by mothers in the state to put recalcitrant children to sleep.
Kumar, however, said a thorough identification would be conducted tomorrow but hastened to add that the body resembled Nirbhay.
He said acting on a tip off, an STF team intercepted the gang in a thick forest near Ajitmal triggering an exchange of fire between the police and the dacoits.
Kumar said two rifles of 303 bore were recovered from the slain dacoit against whom as many as 175 cases of kidnapping, murder, extortion and dacoity were pending.
Gujjar used to operate in a vast swathe of territory ranging from Etawah in Uttar Pradesh to Bhind in Madhya Pradesh.
The dacoit had been married thrice but all his wives ran away with other men, the last being 20-year-old Neelam who eloped with Shyam Jatav, one of Gujjar's foster sons and a gang member.
DIG, Kanpur Range, Mukul Goel, said the Gujjar gang had been considerably weakened in the last few months following the killing of some of its prominent members as also by desertion, including those of Dalla Jatav and Neelam.
Born in Jalaun district, Nirbhay spent his childhood in Gangdaspur village and was active in the ravines of Chambal for the last one and half decade.
Nirbhay had created a flutter in the political circles when, during an interview with a TV channel recently, he said he considered U P Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav as his brother and that he was in regular touch with senior Samajwadi Party leaders.
As Nirbhay's activities increased, police had come under pressure to eliminate him and state DGP Yashpal Singh personally supervised the entire operation with the STF culminating in his killing.