The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Beer bottle clue to theft plot
- CBI sleuths locate guesthouse where medal thieves hatched plan

Santiniketan, April 4: The plot to steal Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel medal and other treasures from the museum at Visva-Bharati was chalked out in an abandoned guesthouse, CBI sleuths said today.

The thieves spent a few hours in the veranda of what used to be a Steel Authority of India Limited guesthouse, yards from the scene of theft, before sneaking into Uttarayan, the complex that houses the Rabindra Bhavan museum.

Officials said the location of the guesthouse, camouflaged by bushes and trees, was perfect for planning a crime.

“During examination of local people, we came to know that no one normally enters the guesthouse premises. But we have found evidence in the veranda that there had been an assembly there recently,” said an official.

During a search carried out by senior CBI officials led by joint director Vivek Dubey and experts from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, three empty beer bottles were found on the premises.

“It appears that three of them were there and they spent a few hours before stepping into Uttarayan. They may have held a number of meetings at the guesthouse before the strike,” said a CBI official.

The sleuths have also concluded that one or two of the culprits were pan masala addicts. “It was a particular brand and we found empty pouches from several places on the Uttarayan premises and outside,” said an official. “It seems, after committing the crime, the criminals took a lane leading to the Santiniketan-Shyambati Road that runs past the guesthouse.”

The CBI officials also found that the tools used to unlock the museum window and to cut the wire fencing were the same. “But it was the act of an expert. They cut the fencing neatly. The opening of the window was also a silent operation,” the official said.

To find out whether an insider was involved in the theft, the CBI has begun an extensive interrogation of the National Volunteer Force personnel who are in charge of Santiniketan security along with Visva-Bharati’s own guards.

The sleuths questioned the voluntary force members till Saturday midnight at the museum office. This morning, the CBI officials summoned volunteer force guard Kartik Mahato and questioned him through the day.

Three others — Nepal Das, Anandagopal Singh and Debojyoti Ghosh — were also summoned to the office. “These three used to guard the museum two years ago. We examined them to clear some points related to our investigation,” said a CBI official.

Employees handling the airconditioning plant of Kala Bhavan were also questioned.

Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Sujit Kumar Basu said the CBI is looking into all possibilities. “Our main objective is to get back the stolen goods and the CBI will have to go by the theory of elimination,” he said.

The bureau did not accept the sample finger and footprints collected by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). “We collected our samples from the museum,” said a CBI official.

Pradip Barui, the local contractor and con man arrested by the CID earlier, is yet to be questioned by the CBI. Barui’s fingerprints had matched with the samples collected by the CID.

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