Patna, Feb. 8: A teenaged boy on way to a game of tennis went through a kidnap ordeal of about 14 hours allegedly masterminded by the family driver before being freed by police who used the latest technology to get to the abductors in one of the swiftest such rescue operations in recent memory.
Shivam Khandelwal, a Class IX student of St Joseph’s High School, had left his home around 4.30pm on Friday for New Patna Club in the family’s white Santro. The car was being driven by Girish Kumar, who had been hired as driver around a month ago. A little over three hours later, Shivam’s businessman father Mohan Kumar Khandelwal received an anonymous call asking him to arrange Rs 2 crore as ransom by 2pm on Saturday in exchange for his son’s freedom.
Girish, police have since learnt, masterminded the plot to kidnap his employer’s son. Khandelwal, who lives in upscale Kaushalya Estate at Bandar Bagicha area, is a civil contractor by profession and also owns a hotel on Exhibition Road.
The father immediately alerted senior superintendent of police (SSP) Manu Maharaaj about his son’s abduction. The Patna police swung into action and recovered Shivam from Dhanpura village in Ara, the headquarters of Bhojpur district, about 60km west of Patna, around 6 this morning. The police didn’t find Girish but managed to arrest two others, Pradeep Kumar Pathak, who works with a travel firm in Bangalore, and Abhishek Singh, a CRPF jawan posted with the 197 battalion in Saranda (Jharkhand).
Police, after piecing together the chain of developments from Shivam and the arrested duo, said it was Girish who had planned the kidnapping, possibly with the help of his wife.
“This seems to be a very well thought out plan and the boy’s recovery is a big achievement for the police. The plan of these men was to extract ransom from the boy’s father and then kill the child so they couldn’t be identified. The driver, Girish Kumar, is the mastermind behind the kidnapping. The police strongly suspect that Girish’s wife Anamika is also involved. She was working as a receptionist in Khandelwal’s hotel for almost two months. It was on her recommendation that Khandelwal had employed Girish as driver around a month ago. Both are absconding and we suspect that they had observed the movements and daily activities of the boy before coming up with the plan,” Maharaaj told The Telegraph.
Shivam frequently used to go to play tennis in the evening at New Patna Club on Beer Chand Patel Marg. “On Friday evening, the boy, dressed in shorts and sports shoes, started from his home in the car which was being driven by Girish. As the car approached the spot, Girish slowed down on nearing a speed-breaker. Pradeep and Abhishek Singh were waiting for Girish. As soon as the car stopped, the men opened the unlocked rear door and got in. Before Shivam could react, a gun was pinned on his head,” Maharaaj said.
All three hail from Ara; Girish and Abhishek are also childhood friends.
Maharaaj said that soon after being alerted of the incident around 8pm, the police set up three teams headed by city SP Jayant Kant.
“The city police have installed CCTV cameras all around Patna. Some of them have ANPR cameras which can read the number plates of vehicles. A team scanned the CCTV footage of the area and located the car and traced its movements. The ransom call was made to Khandelwal at 7.40pm. Pradeep used his mobile, which has a Karnataka number, to make the call. The police took help of scientific investigation methods and technology. The tower location of the mobile phone was traced to Ara and two teams of the police were immediately despatched along with Shivam’s father. The police team acted intelligently and reached the village on foot. Then they carried out a surprise raid in which two of these men were caught immediately and the boy was released around 6am today. Those in the team will be duly rewarded,” the SSP said.
Shivam’s father said he was a relieved man and profusely thanked the police, saying no praise was enough.
“I had hired Girish in early January, but he was not very regular. After working for some days, he disappeared for 10 days again to come back on January 27. I had decided to remove him but he pleaded and I kept him on. Again, he disappeared and came back just two days ago for duty,” Khandelwal said.
Shivam, who looked dazed, said he didn’t realise what was happening. “The two men sat in the car and immediately pointed a gun. Then the driver said I will be released in an hour. On the way I saw the Eco Park and also a bridge. I said I wanted to go to the toilet but they didn’t let me,” he said.
The incident has again brought to the fore the dangers of hiring staff without proper background check. “Khandelwal said he didn’t have a background check of Girish done,” Maharaaj said.