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Before phone, purse picked

A thief caught by a woman after he snatched her cell phone on a bus has admitted under questioning that he had picked a purse from another passenger’s handbag on the same bus on Monday.

Police said Sheikh Montu had picked a pink purse of a woman before snatching 27-year-old Tapaleena Bhattacharya’s phone while she was speaking to someone. The thief jumped off the bus at Sodepur on BT Road but Bhattacharya — a homemaker in a sari and high heels — took off after the man and chased him down with the help of bystanders. She was holding Montu by the collar before others in the chase joined her and turned the thief in.

“He told interrogators about the purse he had stolen in the bus before trying to flee with the phone. He says the purse fellsss somewhere while he was running on the road with a woman in pursuit,” said an officer of Khardah police station.

Neither the purse nor the phone has been found.

An officer said Montu might have passed on the phone and the purse to accomplices before he was caught. “That’s the standard operating procedure of pickpockets and petty criminals. One man steals valuables from people in crowded places and quickly transfers the booty to aides either accompanying him or waiting at designated spots. They do this to avoid detection.”

An officer said two youths from Titagarh and Agartala, on the northern fringe of the city, were questioned on Tuesday. “They were let off since nothing was found on them and not much could be learnt from them,” the officer said.

Montu was arraigned for theft and a Barrackpore court on Tuesday remanded him in judicial custody for three days.

“He is a drug addict and often gets arrested for petty crimes. We raided places in Titagarh and Agartala to catch members of the gang he belongs to. More raids will follow,” the officer said.

Bhattacharya was returning home to Khardah from her parent’s place in Baranagar on a bus (route 78/1) when Montu snatched her phone and jumped out of the vehicle.

Bhattacharya too jumped off the bus and managed to catch him. She took him to Khardah police station in an auto and got him arrested.