The three-month long search operation was no mean feat as it required the police to scan over 12 lakh phone calls, and even sent teams to Delhi and the Bangladesh border.

How Kannur cops solved the brutal assault and house robbery of a Mathrubhumi journo
news Crime Saturday, December 22, 2018 - 19:10

In the wee hours of September 7, 2018, a five-member gang of thieves robbed the house of a Mathrubhumi news editor in Kannur and assaulted him and his wife. The horrifying incident sent shock waves across Kerala, as the gang had tied up, blindfolded and assaulted Vinod Chandran and his wife Saritha, before fleeing with money and gold ornaments.

Three months after the robbery, the Kannur police have expertly cracked the case in a daring operation which spread beyond Kerala’s borders. On December 19, one of the main accused in the break-in and robbery, Abdul Hilal, 27, was caught from a moving train, as he was fleeing to his home country of Bangladesh. Abdul was arrested near the border just before he could cross over to the other country, Kannur DySP PP Sadanandan told TNM. The months-long search operation was not easy, recalls the DySP, as the cops scanned 12 lakh calls, CCTV visuals, fingerprint data and even despatched teams to the Delhi and the Bangladesh border.

We were left with no scientific evidence

The investigating team faced major obstacles as early as a day after the robbery took place, as there was a little scientific evidence at the site, officers said.

“We had nothing to work on, barring a few unclear CCTV visuals and some fingerprints," the SI said. The team then collected all the calls made before and after the robbery, which occurred between 1 am to 3 am on the morning of September 7. They scanned over 12 lakh calls taken from the tower dump and circled those that they felt were suspicious. With this, they were able to figure out that the perpetrators were not from Kerala.

With the fingerprints and CCTV visuals, along with calls made to the Delhi and Bangladesh border, the police soon realised that they weren’t dealing with local criminals.

“This was a gang from a foreign country who had specialised in a particular modus operandi for robbery. We realised this as we studied similar robberies in Ernakulam and soon came to the understanding that this gang was from Bangladesh,” the Kannur DySP added. The gang also was known only to speak in English or Hindi.

Chasing beyond borders

In October, the team, headed by the DySP PP and involving Kannur city Circle Inspector Pradeepan Kannippoyil, ASI Rajeevan and SI Sreejith Koderi, travelled to Delhi and the Bangladesh border for 2 weeks as part of the search operation. The mission was, however, unsuccessful as the members of the gang dispersed to different parts of the country and some had even gone back to Bangladesh.

“Our team then visited areas where Bangladeshi migrants lived. We found informers in these areas and then kept a track of the members coming back into the country,” he said. On December 19, Abdul Halil, one of the main accused, was travelling on a train back to Bangladesh when he was caught somewhere near the India-Bangladesh border.

With Abdul’s capture, the team got their big breakthrough. They hope to nab the other four involved in the case soon.

Based on Abdul’s statements, the police had come to recognise the robbery pattern of these gangs from across the border.

"They always strike in groups and they always choose houses close to the railway station. After they rob the houses, they walk through the railway tracks so that nobody notices them. Then they catch a train back to Delhi and from the capital to their hometown,” the officer added.

In the Vinod Chandran robbery case too, the gang members had walked for an hour through the dark tracks all the way to the Thalassery railway station from where they took trains to Delhi.  Although the gang had zeroed in on three houses in the Thazhe Chovva area, they did not find much in the first two houses and ended up leaving after looting Rs 35,000 and 17 sovereigns of gold ornaments from Vinod’s house.

“We have charged Abdul under section 395 of the Indian Penal Code which is punishment for dacoity. Since he is a foreigner, he will also face charges under the Foreigners Act once we prove that he is not from the country. He is currently remanded at the Kannur sub jail after he was taken to the Kannur judicial first class magistrate court in the district ,” the officer said.

The team is currently attempting to zero in on the other members of the gang involved in the robbery.

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