“Once, my son, Uday, fired indiscriminately at a party and killed many people. I burned his Rolls-Royces, Ferraris and Porsches after the incident,” the former Iraqi emperor told his guards. When the American soldiers captured him on December 13, 2003, he said: “I’m Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi President.”

Saddam was convicted of charges of crimes against humanity related to the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites and was hanged on December 30, 2006 at the age of 69. He spent last six months of his life in a Baghdad jail. Saddam, who ruled Iraq for three decades, was under the surveillance of a group of American soldiers from the 551st Military Police Company. They called themselves ‘The Super Twelve’. Will Bardenwerper was one of them.

Bardenwerper recently penned a book, titled: ‘The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid’. In this book, he portrays the former Iraqi leader’s colourful life.

Bardenwerper reveals that American Mary J Blige was Saddam’s favourite singer. He used to enjoy children’s programmes on television. The former Iraqi president worked out on a cycling machine every day. He loved sweet dishes and muffin was his most favourite item.

“Saddam ate his breakfast in sections, first an omelette, then a muffin, followed by fresh fruit. If the omelette was torn, he would reject it,” writes Bardenwerper. Also, there was the Kohiba cigar, wrapped in wet cloth inside a box. Saddam told guards that Fidel Castro taught him how to smoke cigar.

Saddam shared many of his experiences with prison guards, as he was very much interested in his guards’ lives. He shared anecdotes from his own fatherhood experience with them. After the execution of Saddam, a void swallowed many of his guards. “It seems that someone of my family has died and I am responsible for that death,” said one of them.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]