Policemen and forensic experts inspect the flat that was set ablaze in Ranchi on Saturday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, Jan. 18: A gang of burglars robbed cash and valuables worth Rs 1 lakh from a flat while its residents were away around midnight yesterday, but a neighbour died trying to save his two-wheeler from a fire that burnt down the place soon after.
Local residents suspect the burglars to have set off the blaze at the flat on the ground floor of a three-storeyed Jharkhand State Housing Board apartment meant for low income group families at Argora as a decoy to evade detection while they fled, but the police would not confirm this.
The deceased has been identified as Chotelal Rajak (60), who used to live in another flat on the second floor of the building located behind Jharkhand Home Guard district headquarters.
The two-room flat that was burgled and set on fire belongs to courier agent Manish Sharma, who was on his way to Jamshedpur to deliver a consignment when the incident took place.
Sharma’s family members were also away at their native residence at Tekari in Gaya district of Bihar.
According to Sharma, he had left home at 9.30pm on Friday. He received a call around 1.15am from a neighbour, who informed him that his house was on fire.
“I rushed back and saw a crowd near my house. They told me that Chotelal, who used to stay on the floor above mine, died after suffering a massive heart attack while trying to save his moped from the fire. He had parked the two-wheeler just beside my burning flat on the ground floor,” Sharma told The Telegraph.
Sharma said that a search later revealed that valuables, including ornaments, Rs 25,000 in cash, documents of vehicles, voter ID cards and insurance bonds were missing from the flat, suggesting burglary.
Neighbours said that the gang appeared to have entered the house by breaking a kutcha boundary wall on the rear side of the building.
The police have registered a burglary case. They called in a team from the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) to look for clues that could throw light on the cause of the fire.
“We have registered an FIR and called FSL experts, who collected samples from the spot. We want to know whether the burglars set the house on fire after collecting cash and valuables,” said officer-in-charge of Argora police station Arvind Kumar.
A local resident pointed out that the way the crime had been committed clearly suggested that the culprits were well aware that Sharma and his family were away.
“Everything was fine till 9.30pm when Sharma left his house. He got a call around 1.25am after everything was over. This suggests that the criminals knew about Sharma’s whereabouts and struck at the house only after they were sure that he was not there,” a local resident said, requesting anonymity.