"Suddenly I recognised Kadhafi," recalls AFP photographer Philippe Desmazes, who landed a scoop with his picture of Libya's leader captured and badly wounded moments before his death a year ago Saturday.
Leaving behind the raucous celebration of the 42-year-old regime's imminent fall in central Sirte, Moamer Kadhafi's home town, on October 20, 2011, the photographer had headed west where fighting still raged.
Nervous rebels racing "like madmen" gave him a lift on their pick-up truck before a male nurse about whom he had done a story a couple of days earlier took him to his final destination in the western Sirte suburbs.
Below the road he suddenly saw two large concrete pipes in a dry river bed, and on the ground corpses of Kadhafi's bodyguards, some with their faces painted blue.
"One of them had an arm dislocated, the other his throat slit," Desmazes, 51, recalls.
"Then suddenly I saw over a dozen people pushing and shoving, all trying to see the same thing. Out of curiosity I went too -- almost didn't," he admits.
"The group moved, kept pushing, and I couldn't see a thing. I thought they had recovered an object. I did have Kadhafi on my mind but of course I wasn't sure."
But then there were shouts of "Kadhafi, Kadhafi" and people pointing to the concrete pipes which turned out to be the dictator's last hiding place.
"People were kneeling. I pulled a man by the shoulder so I could take his place," Desmazes continues. "Then I saw this guy in the middle of the group with one of those old battered mobile phones", showing a brief video where one could "hardly see a thing because the camera had moved too fast".
"Suddenly I recognised Kadhafi but only very briefly," he said.
Desmazes asked the man with the mobile phone to show the pictures again.
"I took four photos of Kadhafi from the video. Two were good," in spite of the extreme brightness and the speed at which the scene had been captured, Desmazes recalls. Wearing a bulletproof vest also hampered his moves.
An undated picture shows French AFP photographer Philippe Desmazes, who landed a scoop with his picture of Libya's leader captured and badly wounded moments before his death a year ago Saturday.
Practically sure that the video showing Kadhafi with his face covered in blood was real, Desmazes went to Sirte's main hospital to find out more about the wounded.
"At that moment, I had no idea how important the photo was as it meant that Kadhafi had been captured.
"If there had been photographers at the time of his arrest, my picture would have been worthless," he says a year after the incident when he was cut off from the rest of the world after his satellite phone broke down.
Only later that same afternoon of October 20, after shooting more pictures, including one showing a young rebel brandishing Kadhafi's golden gun, Desmazes could finally send his historic photo which was published by AFP after further verification.
"I only realised that night how important the picture was when I opened my emails at the hotel. I had more than 200 messages," says Desmazes.
The next day he took a picture of Kadhafi's body in the cold storage room of a greengrocer in the western city of Misrata.
To this day, Desmazes wonders about the "mystery" surrounding the dictator's death: was he killed in fierce crossfire during his arrest as Libya's new authorities claim? Or did rebels capture him alive as some media and witnesses argue?
On Tuesday Human Rights Watch said it had new evidence implicating militias in executions after Kadhafi's capture and killing.
HRW said it had collected mobile phone video clips taken by anti-Kadhafi fighters showing that the dictator was captured alive but bleeding heavily from a head wound.
In the footage, he is severely beaten by rebels and appears to be stabbed with a bayonet in his buttocks.
Kadhafi, who ruled Libya since 1969, had been on the run after his Tripoli headquarters at Bab al-Aziziya was overrun by rebel forces on August 23, 2011.
After that date and until his recorded death he was repeatedly rumoured to have died along with several of his sons.
Three days after his death Libya's transitional authorities proclaimed the country "liberated".