The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Looting lessons, courtesy Bollywood

Patna, Jan. 20: Eleven young students, inspired by Hindi potboilers, carried off a series of car thefts and robberies undetected before one of the gang walked into a trap.

The thefts between January 1 and 17 were executed with such precision that the police were baffled.

Yesterday, they finally pieced the plot together after 10 members were arrested.

“The gang became our nightmare between January 1 and 17. At least six vehicles, cars and motorcycles were stolen and two robberies committed in two apartments,” Patna senior superintendent of police Sunil Kumar said.

The police saw through the gang’s game when Kunal Krishna, alias Mrinal, was identified by a resident in an apartment, one of the scenes of crime.

“We caught him buying a bunch of flowers,” investigator R. Chowdhary said.

Kunal, the son of a professor at a Siwan college, said: “We used to watch movies. Movies inspired our plan.”

He squealed on his friends, who were working then on a plan in a Peer Bahar apartment.

Four of the gang, Munna alias Chandan, Gaurav Kumar, Umesh Rai and Ranjit Kumar, were picked up from room numbers 9 and 12 of a hostel at Baidpur locality.

The other five were hauled in from restaurants.

All the accused were undergraduate students from respectable families which could by no means be called poor, police said. None had any previous record of crime.

At a news meet organised by Patna police, the students looked at each other and paused for long before saying why they committed the robberies.

“What else could we have done' We wanted some quick bucks,” said Vikas.

After some brainstorming in their hostel rooms, appar-ently with some help from Hindi film plots, the 11 zeroed in on Chhaya Apartment, a posh residential building in Patna’s downtown Gandhi Maidan locality.

Half past 12 one afternoon, when the mercury had slumped to 3 degrees Celsius, two of the youngsters rang the bell at A. Pachesia’s flat. They introduced themselves to his wife as Pachesia’s friends and offered her a bouquet and wished happy new year. As the woman went in to put down the flowers in the drawing room, two others joined in, all of them armed. “Let us do our job,” said Pankaj Kumar.

“In the next half hour, they packed valuables and cash worth at least Rs 50,000 and disappeared,” said city superintendent of police O.N. Bhaskar.

The sleuths who were put on the job at first suspected Pachesia’s friends and associates till another identical robbery was reported from the city’s Kadamkuan locality.

“This time, the bouquet had a taunting one-liner — ‘Thank you for your cooperation,” an inspector at Kadamkuan police outpost said.

“We thought the money was not enough. We needed a car, too,” said Munna, a B.A. Honours student of political science.

On January 6, the 11 friends spotted a Honda City car near Sultanganj. Munna presented a bunch of red roses to the man behind the wheel and wished him a happy new year.

“The man began to talk of the weather and booze when Munna and two of us overpowered him, shoved him out of the car and sped with the vehicle,” Umesh told the police.

The same evening, the gang had a blast in their room no. 12.

One of the gang, Sambhu Singh, however, escaped the police net -– with a large share of the loot, the police said. They are hunting for Sambhu, believed to be one of the gang’s masterminds.

A part of the loot, along with revolvers and cartridges, has been seized, Bhaskar said.

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