50-year-old Kulasekharan* was standing alone at a crowded Vadapalani bus stop in Chennai, when the woman first approached him. The middle-aged lady whose face was laden with make-up flashed a smile at him and he hesitantly reciprocated. What followed next was an awkward conversation that ended ten minutes later, with the woman issuing multiple threats. As per Kulasekharan's complaint on June 20, she told him that if he did not had handover his gold chain immediately, she would accuse him of misbehaving with her.
She allegedly described how she would accuse him of asking if she was a prostitute and let him be subjected to mob justice. Extremely shocked and equally scared, Kulasekharan handed over his chain to the woman, who promptly sped away in an Activa.
The extortionist that Kulasekharan had fallen prey to is 37-year-old Asha, a criminal that the Chennai police have been on the lookout for, for the last six months. According to the Vadapalani inspector who spoke to TNM, Asha has committed multiple offences of the same nature in Mamabalam, Pondy Bazaar, Virugamabakkam and Vadapalani. On June 20, however, her free run came to an end and she was arrested by the Vadapalani police in a bus stop there.
"What she usually does is come on a bike with lot of make-up. She will wait till she finds a target who is alone and make sure he is wearing gold or other jewellery. These are always men who are over 50- years-old because they are soft targets," says the Inspector Chandru, who nabbed Asha with the help of a special team. "Once she makes eye contact with her victim or if they smile she will strike a conversation. Soon that will descend to threats," he explains.
Only last week, according to the inspector, a 70-year-old man handed over his gold chain and ring because he was afraid that he would get beaten up if the woman creates a scene. The incident took place at Virugambakkam. "She was staying in a woman's hostel in the city and would frequent bus stops. It was all very well planned," says the inspector.
Following interrogations, police have recovered 20 sovereigns of gold from Asha and are looking to give it back to her victims. She has been booked under six IPC sections for threatening the men, snatching and robbery.