THE body of Slobodan Milosevic, the late president of Serbia and butcher of the Balkans, has suffered the indignity of having a wooden stake driven through the heart in a ritual "vampire exorcist" attack.

Days before the first anniversary of Milosevic's burial in his home town of Pozarevac, a young self-confessed "vampire hunter" and paid-up member of the local chapter of The Resistance, presumably to the Undead, dealt with the mortal remains of the late dictator in the time-honoured Balkan fashion.

The first anniversary of a man's death is a significant date in the Vampire Hunters' Almanac, apparently a well thumbed handbook in Serbia and other, even darker corners of the Balkans. Milosevic's significant anniversary date fell yesterday.

The timing of the action of vampire-hunter Miroslav Milosevic (no relation of the late dictator) was therefore fitting and proper as he wanted to pre-empt the return of the Undead Milosevic's evil spirit to this Earth. Miroslav struck at the "witching time of night when churchyards yawn" and the Undead, buried for less than a year, clamber out of their graves and return to haunt the living, according to local tradition.

Vampire infestation goes back a long way. Thanks to Dom Augustin Calmet, a dedicated vampire hunter, we have telling details of the Undead returning from the grave to haunt their kith and kin in 18th-century Serbia.

In his 1746 book the Benedictine priest from Lorraine recounts the eyewitness account of the Count de Cabreras, an Imperial officer and official "vampire investigator". In one incident in 1730, said "to contain all the features that characterised hundreds of similar cases", an alleged Undead preying on his family was examined. "The body of the Undead spectre was dug up and found to be in the same state as if it had been just dead, his blood just like a living person's". The Count de Cabreras ignored the superstitious local peasants' time-honoured treatment for revenants and ordered its head be cut off and the body burnt.

Driving stakes through the hearts of the Undead has a long tradition in Serbia, and Miroslav showed a firm grasp of the finer points of this living Balkan custom. He drove a metre-long hawthorn stake through the heart of the dead dictator. In dealing with the "vlkoslak", the local vampire variant, hawthorn is said to be the appropriate weapon. In neighbouring Dalmatia, tradition also demands that a "Kuzlak", or Undead, must be disposed of by "transfixing its heart with a hawthorn bow", according to the learned 18th century vampire expert Johannes Heinrich Zopfius as recorded in his 1733 book, Dissertatio de Vampyris Serviensibus.

Milosevic himself died in prison in The Hague, where he was tried by the United Nations for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He had drained the region's blood in his wars to create a Greater Serbia, but his malign ghost, as befits a revenant, is still haunting the peoples of the former Yugoslavia.

As the nostalgists of his Greater Serbia vision and the extremists of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia had plans to mark yesterday's anniversary of their leader's death with a pilgrimage to his grave, the youthful vampire hunter of Pozarevac has shown notable political savvy. But then Miroslav is a former member of the Serbian student movement OTPOR, which hastened the political demise of the late dictator with protests and street demonstrations.

Miroslav freely informed police of his intended action. "I called the police on my mobile and let them know that I was in the Milosevic vault in the cemetery. They said be careful or Milosevic's hand might get you from the grave'.

"Entering the Milosevic vault and driving a hawthorn stake through the grave was my duty carried out in the name of the Pozarevac Resistance. I wanted to do it painlessly, without conflict with the people who would be at the grave on the day of the anniversary. After I drove the stake through the grave I presented myself at the police station and made a statement to the chief."

The late dictator's daughter-in-law, Milica Galici, has lodged a complaint over the "violation of Milosevic's grave". The complaint would be sent to the state prosecutor's office.

In spite of protests by Serbian nationalists, young Miroslav has achieved his aim: Milosevic is no longer an Undead "vlkoslak" able to haunt his home town.

Thanks to the hawthorn stake, Pozarevac is a safer place today. But this cannot be said about Serbia as a whole, which is still being haunted by Milosevic's nationalist spirit.