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Brakes on killers of 13 drivers

The man leading an inter-state carjacking gang accused of murdering 13 drivers was arrested and brought to the city on Wednesday.

According to police, Pramod Singh — a resident of Gaya district in Bihar — steered the carjacking ring that claimed the lives of 13 drivers and stole a number of vehicles in the past two years.

“The gang was active in and around Calcutta…. Posing as shuttle passengers waiting to thumb a ride, they would spread out and manage to board a vehicle with a lone driver from various points,” said Niraj Kumar Singh, the superintendent of police, Howrah.

Police have learnt that in most cases, Pramod and his men used to board a car from near the Maidan and along EM Bypass.

Acting on a tip-off, a Howrah police team went to Gaya last week and tailed Pramod for a while before arresting him and his associate Tapesh Kumar Mahato at Gaya railway station.

“They had planned an operation in the city on September 11 and so they met at the station to come to Calcutta,” said a senior police officer.

The duo — booked on charges of murder and robbery — will be produced in the chief judicial magistrate’s court on Thursday.

Explaining the gang’s modus operandi, Singh said: “After getting into the vehicle from various points, one of them would request the driver to stop the car on some pretext. Then the gang would overpower and kill the driver.”

In the past two years, 13 bodies of drivers were recovered in Howrah and a number of cases of vehicles missing were reported in various police stations in the city.

“We have lost two drivers and two Tata Sumos in the past few years. The drivers were murdered and the cars stolen by people who had thumbed a ride. One driver’s throat was slit while the other was strangled to death. Their bodies were dumped on the Kona Expressway,” said the proprietor of a car-on-hire agency in south Calcutta.

As the police here had information that most of the cars were being sold in Bihar to agents dealing in stolen vehicles, they were in touch with their counterparts in the neighbouring state.

“We were on the lookout for Pramod and his men for some time…. In the past six months, our men visited Bihar a number of times to gather more information about the gang and its operations,” said Singh, adding that Pramod had been arrested once before.

In October 2005, Orissa police had arrested Pramod and two accomplices — Sanjay Singh and Shyam Sundar Pathak — in Balasore district following a failed robbery attempt at a petrol pump.

Orissa police, aware of the carjacking cases in Bengal, had contacted Howrah police and a team from Dasnagar Investigation Centre went to Balasore and brought the three to Howrah. Two months later, the trio managed to escape from the lock-up.

“We are preparing a strong case against Pramod,” said a senior police officer.

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