Motorcycle-borne armed robbers shot dead a coal trader from Howrah and looted Rs 6.53 lakh from four other city-based traders travelling with him after stopping their car at a town near Dhanbad on Wednesday.
Dhananjay Ravidas, the driver of the car, was shot four times but he still managed to steer the vehicle to safety. He was admitted to Central Hospital in Dhanbad in a serious condition.
Police said Vijay Agrawal, Uday Pal, Asit Nandi, M.M. Paul and Gaur Mohan Dey travelled to Kumardhubi station from Calcutta by the Black Diamond Express. They hired the white Ambassador to take them to Nirsa, 39km from Dhanbad, where they had planned to buy coal.
As the car reached Chapra colony on the outskirts of Nirsa, five youths on two bikes stopped it and ordered the traders to hand over the cash they were carrying.
Agrawal handed over a bag containing Rs 3.68 lakh. Pal and Nandi, too, handed over Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 1.35 lakh, respectively. Paul, however, refused to hand over the Rs 2.5 lakh he was carrying and started abusing the criminals, said the police.
As residents gathered on the spot, one of the robbers shot Paul on the head twice, killing him instantly. Ravidas, who was trying to drive past the robbers, was shot four times but he did not press the brakes. Left with no option, the criminals rode away towards GT Road.
The superintendent of Dhanbad police, Sheetal Oraon, said a gang whose leader was recently released from jail was probably behind the robbery.
“I am sure that someone close to the traders had informed the gang members about the trip,” said Oraon.
Paul’s family members reached Dhanbad to bring his body home to Amta, Howrah. The other four were on their way back to the city.
“We are talking to Paul’s family members to ascertain whether a business rivalry could have led to the attacks,” said a senior officer at Dhanbad.
A probe revealed that the traders used to visit Nirsa once a month to buy coal. They have been in the business for nine years.