No leads have emerged so far from the Rs 5 crore train heist in Tamil Nadu, but one thing’s for certain – it’s a mindboggling case for the state forensics department and the police. An amount of Rs 5.78 crore was stolen from 4 boxes out of the 226 boxes on a VPH (high capacity parcel van) going from Indian Overseas Bank, Salem to RBI, Chennai. The incident had come to light only by Tuesday noon even though the train arrived at Chennai Egmore at 4 am.
Railway police and senior officials feel someone familiar with parcel loading and the pattern of the train's operation may be involved in the planning of the heist. The forensics department say it’s too early to tell considering the nature of the crime. A four-square-feet hole, through which a person could enter, was found drilled on the roof of the mail van, which was carrying soiled currencies worth Rs. 342 crore from Salem to Chennai on the Salem Express.
"The train was carrying soiled notes for pulping at RBI," a senior official confirmed to The Times of India. The VPH was taken to Chetpet Railway yard after the train reached Egmore and around 10 am, it was then taken to Egmore parcel shed, where it was parked till RBI officials arrived in the morning," a senior official said to The Times of India.
The initial probe, according to a senior official, reveals that the tin exterior was extremely thin, possibly allowing the thieves to cut through easily. Investigators also suspect that the hole could have been drilled when the train traversed the un-electrified 137-km Salem-Virudhachalam route as the daredevil on the roof could have carried out his operations, without being bothered about the 25,000 volt over-head electric lines.
The mail coach was attached to the engine when it started from Salem at 9pm. At Virudhachalam (11:55pm), the engine position changed and the mail coach became the last coach, behind the guard coach. “The guard could possibly not have heard the cutting sound. The crime was planned smartly after collecting all information,” said a senior official of Southern Railway to The Times of India.
An official in the Salem division said there was a seven-hour gap between loading the boxes in the yard and the train's departure from Salem.