A CESC jeep was held up and looted on a busy north Calcutta stretch, with a police patrol car parked a shout away. But all that the police could do on Friday afternoon was pick up an innocent bystander who had taken to his heels when he saw the cops bearing down on him.
The audacious dacoity was carried out around 12.40 pm, at the intersection of Beleghata Main Road and Beleghata Lorry Road, when a gang of three intercepted a CESC jeep with assistant chief cashier, Swarup Gupta, 54, sitting in the back with a bag containing Rs 10.35 lakh. The cashier had collected the money from CESC centres in Dum Dum and Beleghata and was on his way to deposit the money in a bank on Netaji Subhas Road.
Deputy commissioner of police (detective department) Pradip Sanyal said the jeep had slowed down to negotiate three road humps. As driver Mohammad Manju, 35, slammed the brakes, the three men sprang at him, and one held a bhojali to his throat. Another goon pointed a revolver at Gupta and ordered him to hand over the bag of cash.
The third member of the hold-up gang took away the single-barrel firearm from CESC guard Subhas Hira, seated beside the driver. Police said the driver’s help, Ramnarayan Choudhury, also sat in the front, and never made a move. Deputy commissioner Sanyal said Gupta quietly handed over the cash bag to the criminals.
Witnesses said the operation lasted “hardly more than three minutes”. With Rs 10.35 lakh in their kitty, the three goons headed for a taxi waiting a hundred yards away.
All this, while a police patrol car was posted about 50 yards from where the jeep was stopped and looted. Sanyal said cashier Gupta, on spotting the police car, ran towards it and alerted the cops. The police rushed to the spot, but instead of trying to stop the fugitive taxi, they got busy chasing a group of bystanders on the opposite pavement. As precious time was lost rounding up innocent pedestrians, the goons sped away in the taxi.
“We have the number of the taxi and the names of some suspects,’’ said Sanyal, admitting that the detained youth might not be connected with the gang.