The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shoplifter girl in Ryder role

A Class IX dropout of a reputed all-girls’ school in south-central Calcutta has been slammed for shoplifting after she admitted to stealing the bag of a Russian diplomat in a crowded city mall on Friday evening. Police put it down to an extreme case of “celebrititis” (the urge to hit the spotlight).

Now in her mid-20s, Rina (real name withheld) was produced in court on Sunday and remanded in police custody till March 12. Detained overnight, she was formally arrested early in the morning, after intensive interrogation. She broke down during the grilling and admitted to her Winona Ryder-like act, that left victim Russian diplomat G. Churanov fuming.

Officers of Shakespeare Sarani police station referred to Rina as a victim of ‘celebrititis’. She told the cops that she had modelled herself on Hollywood stars like Ryder, Nicole Kidman and Halle Berry. “She wanted to do a Ryder to grab some attention,” said Subrata Ghosh, officer-in-charge (OC) of Shakespeare Sarani police station

“We recovered Rs 4,000, the diplomat’s identity card, expensive sunglasses and other important documents,” he added.

Quoting from her confession, Ghosh added that Rina had been hooked on to the whole shoplifting episode involving the Hollywood actress. “I had read about the incident in the papers and saw Ryder testifying on television,” Rina told interrogators on Sunday morning. “I wanted to be like her.”

Ryder was convicted after a sensational 10-day jury trial last November on two counts of shoplifting some $5,500 of designer goods from the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills, in December 2001. The star of Girl Interrupted and Age of Innocence was caught on camera selecting designer clothes, concealing them under a large garment bag, going in and out of dressing rooms and leaving without paying.

She used scissors to cut the Saks security tags off handbags and hairbows, costing hundreds of dollars apiece.

Back in Calcutta, Rina did make it to media limelight, but at what cost' Arrested on Sunday — after several hours of interrogation — and then produced in court for pilfering the purse of a city diplomat, she spent Sunday night behind bars, while her businessman father and cardiac-patient mother struggled to pick up the pieces of their crumbling world in their home close to Park Street.

Rina did a Ryder on Friday evening, even as the city was glued to the television, watching home-grown hero Sourav Ganguly taking the country closer to the World Cup. She entered the south Calcutta mall, near Shakespeare Sarani, and lifted a bag from a shop counter. The bag belonged to Churanov, who was busy shopping.

When he realised that his bag had been lifted, the Russian diplomat lost no time in registering an FIR with Shakespeare Sarani police station and a complaint with the shop-owners’ association.

Less than 24 hours later, Rina returned to the site of the crime. “The diplomat and the shop-keepers had given us some indication of what she looked like and we were keeping a strict vigil,” said an officer. “We told the police to watch out for a pretty, well-dressed girl,” added one of the shopkeepers. When Rina turned up, she was detained for interrogation as a suspect. “She seems to symbolise a section of our youth on the fast track to fortune and fame,” observed a deputy commissioner of police.

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