General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, the notorious Saigon police chief, undoubtedly took many secrets to the grave after his death in quiet exile in California last week. Among them was a snippet of intelligence which could have lifted the spirits of an old peasant woman still living on the outskirts of the city he once ruled with a brutality considered shocking by even the standards of the Vietnam War. Nguyen Thi Lop's husband Lem was the man he executed with a snub-nosed pistol on a Saigon street during the Tet Offensive of 1968. The picture - later to win a Pulitzer Prize - was splashed on front pages across the world and for generations has captured the horror of the conflict. In the chaos of that bloody week, Mrs Lop never found out what happened to her husband's remains. To this day she has been denied the chance to perform the rites allowing his soul to rest according to Vietnamese tradition. 'All these years I have been waiting and waiting to hear from him [Loan], and now he has died,' she said. 'I always told myself that if I ever had the chance to meet him and he told what happened to the remains, I would have forgiven him. If he didn't tell me, I would have killed him and ripped his heart out.' Ms Lop, now a 66-year-old great-grandmother, has no interest in putting the past to one side. Her simple whitewashed house is surrounded by a vast graveyard and she even re-named her daughter Loan in a bid to cleanse the soul of the man she calls 'evil'. Yesterday she wept beneath an altar devoted to her husband as she recounted her personal struggle during 1968 after he was captured leading a raid on American naval ships docked on the Saigon River. One month pregnant with her third child and a member of the communist underground resistance herself, she barely saw her husband on their small farm as the war intensified around the once insulated Saigon. One day she saw all her neighbours gathered around a copy of the Saigon News and sidled across to check out the commotion. 'Look at Loan killing a VC [Viet Cong],' one neighbour cried out, thrusting a copy of the paper into her hands, not knowing about her secret second life. 'I knew instantly it was Lem,' she said. 'But I couldn't say anything, I had to hide my grief and shoulder it like a hawker's burden as I wandered about the city trying to quietly find out what happened. I was too terrified to approach his unit for fear of being identified.' Due to the intense secrecy surrounding the resistance movement, the communist authorities did not officially notify her of the death until 1975, as the war ended. She discovered Lem had taken her own name as a nom de guerre, and he was awarded posthumous hero's medals which line the altar today. 'If he had been killed in a running battle or by a foreign GI I would not have minded so much. It was war after all. But the way he was shot after being wounded and captured by another Vietnamese was too much to bear,' she said. 'The Americans should have returned Loan to Vietnam so he could be tried as a war criminal. A great chance has been lost.' With Loan dead, Ms Lop said she would still like the help of the American government to track down any information surrounding the killing. Her only son, Thong, born eight months after the execution, says he thinks about it often. 'I have my own child now, and I would like to think my children and their children could in future go to pray at the tomb of my father. I never met him but I am proud of what he did for his country.'