(This is the second part of a series on Kerala Police officers who are on the hunt for criminals. Watch this space for more.)
The policemen investigating criminals’ trails in other states are often bumped into a murky world where rogue cops and seasoned criminals work in tandem. A special police team from Kerala was faced with more than just a petty criminal when they left for Delhi to crack a series of ATM robberies around Alappuzha.
The first robbery was at Cheriyanad in April 2017. The robbers cut through the cash dispensing machine and made away with Rs 3.65 lakh. There were similar robbery attempts at Kariyilakkulangara and Kayamkulam but they were unsuccessful.
The police got an initial lead from the footage of a surveillance camera installed in a shop near the robbed ATM. The camera showed an Innova near the ATM. However, the registration number was traced to a doctor at Kayamkulam.
The police then proceeded to check the cameras installed along the motorways. They chanced on a car that sped through a side road in the wee hours of the day of robbery. The footage was hazy. It was not even clear which vehicle it showed, until the police team emulated the shot with different car brands. It was an Innova, without doubt.
Their job was far from over. They had to locate this particular Innova from amid thousands of such vehicles in Kerala. A special team was formed, including circle inspector K R Sadan, circle inspector Umesh Kumar, sub inspector Sudhi Lal, officers Ilyas, Vinil, Mohan Kumar, Unnikrishnan, Prathapa Chandran, Rahul and Sheffeek.
The team went through footage from all the check posts in the state. They had looked into the details of about a lakh Innovas until they zeroed in on an Innova with a blue light in the front at the Valayar border check post. The Delhi-registered vehicle was seen as crossing into Kerala. The car belonged to Suresh Kumar, a resident of Uttam Nagar in Delhi. The special team set off on his trail to Delhi.
Suresh lived in the fifth floor of a building in the Sarojini Market area. He was not at home. He had told his neighbors that he worked with the Delhi police. His wife worked in the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital as a nurse.
The police staked out the area for the suspect. One of the cops, Vinil, assumed the role of a supplier at a nearby restaurant. The others rented a room to keep a watch over the area.
The team was met with stiff resistance from the Delhi authorities. The motor vehicles department officers refused to part with details of Suresh Kumar. The team’s luck changed when an official offered to help them privately. He fished out the suspect’s phone number from the office records.
The police team checked the tower location of the number and was surprised to see that Suresh Kumar was still in Thiruvananthapuram. The surprise waned when they listened to the news of another ATM robbery in Thiruvananthapuram. They learned from the tower locations that Suresh Kumar was on his way back after the disruptions in Kerala.
Suresh Kumar reached Sarojini Market in a Swift car, not an Innova as the policemen expected him to. They did not even recognize their man until a neighbor tipped them. Suresh entered the house through the back door, with a packet of milk in hand, when Vinil and Unnikrishnan barged in after him. The others closed in, trapping Suresh from all sides.
Suresh Kumar told the cops that he had sold the Innova in Haryana. He kept tight-lipped about the other members of the gang but his phone was a giveaway. The cops understood that the kingpin of the gang of thieves was Aslub Khan, a constable with the Delhi police who hailed from Mewat in Haryana. Khan was in Mewat at the time, his mobile phone’s tower location revealed.
He was in a village in Haryana’s Nuh district bordering Rajasthan, 200 kilometers away from Delhi. Shikarpur had an unenviable tag. People from this backward village have been involved in theft cases across north India. Some of them even claimed to be the pioneers in breaking open ATM machines with a gas cutter.
Khan himself was legendary in those parts. He lorded over a vast gang of robbers who operated across India. The constable is an expert in tracking down criminals. He had other motives than the call of duty it seemed.
He would do everything he could to sent a thief to the jail and then to get him out. Police work was just another way of recruiting seasoned thieves to his racket.
Getting to Khan was not easy. He seemed to know every move of the cops from Kerala. The cops were shocked to learn that Khan’s loyal friends in the Delhi police had been tapping their phones and passing on every information to him. They had passed on their numbers to their counterparts in Delhi who offered to help.
The special squad had no other way but to change their phone numbers. Having realized the magnitude of the racket at Khan’s dispersal, the Kerala cops resorted to below-the-belt strategies. They tapped the phones of Khan’s stooges in the police and received information on his whereabouts.
When the police officers were not helping Khan, they were afraid of him. A superintendent of police in Haryana counseled the team from Kerala to end their pursuit of Khan. “Going to Mewat was risky. You could get killed,” he said.
He had his reasons. Just a fortnight ago, a boy from Shikarpur had stolen a buffalo from a neighboring village. A constable who went to the village to investigate the complaint was shot dead by the villagers.
The Kerala team persisted. They finally entered Shikarpur with the support of a hundred-strong armed posse of the Haryana police. This was the first time a police team from outside the state was entering the dangerous slums.
Surprisingly, the cops were met with little resistance initially. However, a public announcement by the village chief changed the scene. The villagers became belligerent.
The special officers kept on with their search. They were shocked when they got into Khan’s house. The luxurious house was connected to other houses in the neighborhood by a series of tunnels. He had a herd of costly buffaloes. Khan himself was nowhere to be seen though.
Meanwhile, the village grew tense. The village chief demanded that the policemen go back. When the cops stood their ground, the villagers unleashed their herds of buffaloes and set them off in the cops’ direction. The policemen were helpless. Shooting at a buffalo means an instant backlash from the people. They withdrew.
Later, one of the villagers told them that Khan had escaped. The team got hold of his new number, which revealed that he was on his way to Nepal. At a check post, they bumped into the Innova that Suresh Kumar had driven from Kerala. The car’s front was smashed in to delay identification. The cops ended their two-month chase and drove the Innova back to Kerala, where Suresh Kumar would be put to trial.
Khan had fled to Nepal. Investigation is on to nab him and three other suspects.
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