The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mend-it man mastermind

Dark, skinny and diminutive, Chaitanya Pal was hard to spot in a crowd. That’s what he exploited to the hilt to hatch an audacious jailbreak at high-security Dum Dum Central.

The 33-year-old, a murder accused out on bail, kept things simple and drew no attention to Thursday’s getaway.

The key to the plan was an ordinary ladder that he had brought in under the eyes of the guards to repair the jail’s sewerage lines. He had left it behind at a strategic point so that the gang of five could effortlessly use it to scale the 15-ft wall.

Within half-an-hour of the jailbreak, the authorities came to know how it had happened and who the mastermind was. “Chaitanya did not bring the ladder only for his work, but to provide the five criminals with an escape route,” said a senior jail official.

During the course of investigation, the authorities came to know that Chaitanya had spent three years in the same jail. “He was arrested on charges of murdering a rickshaw-puller in 1999. Since then, he was here. But six months ago, he obtained bail,” said Joydeb Chakroborty, inspector-general of police (prisons).

“Chaitanya was good at repairing pipelines and sewerlines during his imprisonment. His skill earned him our trust,” said a senior jail official.

“It is now clear that Chaitanya struck up a friendship with Sheikh Binod and others during his stay. But the jailbreak plan was hatched after he obtained bail,” said the official, adding: “Even after he was out, he had free access to the jail premises. The authorities used to call him frequently for repair work.”

Chaitanya had been working in the jail for the past week. “The south-east corner of the boundary wall, from where the five escaped, is the only isolated place in the compound. It is not visible from the four watch-towers,” said another jail official.

The timing, too, was crucial. “Usually, the kutcha road along the boundary wall is busy. Workers of the gun and shell factory nearby use it. But when it rains, no one takes the muddy stretch,” said a jail employee.

The investigators came to know that Chaitanya even supplied clothes to the five fugitives. “We have found a witness who saw five youths running along the boundary wall towards Jessore Road. All of them were in plain clothes. They must have changed their prison uniforms and slipped into the clothes provided by Chaitanya after scaling the wall,” said an official.

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