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City robber in guise of courier Garia heist after drugging lady

Calcutta, Oct. 6: A youth posing as a courier robbed an apartment in Garia this afternoon after pressing an ether-soaked handkerchief to the unsuspecting homemaker’s nose, days after a hand-delivered parcel bomb killed a Howrah journalist and activist.

The ornament-and-cash heist at Kalpana and Chittaranjan Pan’s second-floor flat, a stone’s throw from Kavi Subhas Metro station and in an area teeming with shops and several autorickshaw stands, was the latest in a series of robberies and snatchings on the southern fringes of Calcutta.

In some instances, the snatchers had even opened fire to scare off people while escaping.

Kalpana, 45, said the doorbell rang around 1.20pm. “I opened the door and saw a tall, fair youth with a leather bag slung across his shoulder. He appeared to be in his twenties. He said he had come to deliver a letter in my husband’s name.”

She told the man she would call up her husband, who had gone to a neighbourhood marriage hall he ran with his brothers. “I turned to go to the bedroom to get my cellphone. Suddenly, the youth put a handkerchief to my nose and I lost consciousness,” Kalpana said.

When Chittaranjan, who also runs a nursing home near Garia railway station with his four brothers, came home for lunch around 1.45pm and rang the doorbell, no one answered. “I gently pushed the door and it opened. I peered through the half-open door of one of the bedrooms and saw the almirah open. Clothes lay on the bed. I thought my wife was cleaning the almirah before the Pujas. I called out her name but got no reply,” he said.

Chittaranjan, 52, then dialled Kalpana’s cellphone number. “I heard it ring and saw it lying on the floor of the bedroom. As I bent down to pick it up, I saw my wife lying on the floor behind the half-open door,” he said.

The couple, whose son Subhodip was in school at the time of the heist, said two almirahs in the two bedrooms had been ransacked. Gold ornaments worth Rs 5.5 lakh and Rs 20,000 in cash were stolen.

Police suspect the involvement of more than one person in the robbery. “We are questioning the security guard of the building. We suspect an insider’s involvement. The guard had gone for lunch, leaving the main entrance of the building open at the time of the robbery,” an officer of Sonarpur police station said.

On September 26, freelance reporter and rights activist Chaitali Santra, 40, was killed by a parcel bomb delivered by a man posing as a courier. The parcel exploded as she was unwrapping it. Her husband suffered critical injuries.

On Thursday, police investigations revealed that a polytechnic engineer who had been arrested for domestic violence allegedly hired a man he had met in jail to kill Chaitali, who had encouraged his wife to go to the police.

Debasish Dey, who was arrested from Maharashtra, not only paid co-accused Shubhankar Das to execute his plan but also drew for him the circuit of the explosive device that killed Chaitali.

Today’s robbery was the fourth in the past fortnight in areas on the city’s southern fringes.

On September 22, motorcycle-borne robbers had snatched a gold chain from a woman at Jadavpur’s Central Park when she was returning home from a flower shop. One of the men fired at the flower seller who had tried to stop the gang from fleeing. One of the snatchers has since been arrested.

The next day, a gang snatched a gold chain from a woman who had just opened a government-run milk shop on Babubagan Lane near Dhakuria railway station. While fleeing, the robbers fired three rounds to scare off bystanders.

Fifteen minutes later, some men engaged another woman in a conversation at Survey Park and snatched her gold chain.