The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bank heist abetter walks into cop trap

Gang targeted banks located on the first floor of buildings, in densely-populated areas

The robbers, posing as customers, would enter the establishment by 10 am, just when it had opened for the day

A dramatic speech in a broad, non-Bengali accent would follow: 'Amra shobai bekar, naukri nei, aur takar dorkar aachhe'

Taking a circuitous route through bylanes, the gang would assemble in the flat, distribute the booty and flee

She is an attractive 29-year-old with an eye for detail and a criminal bent of mind. For two years, she used all this to mastermind one bank heist after another, leaving cops clueless.

Sarita Singh, the 'mystery woman' whose ingenuity was the driving force behind a gang of bank robbers, was arrested last Tuesday in connection with a Rs 85-lakh heist in Watgunge in 2003.

'Prem Prakash Gupta, alias Pappu, Mukesh Kumar, and Sarita Devi Singh were arrested in Calcutta, while the other two, P. Kumar, alias Sunil Singh, and Umesh Singh, are being brought here from Raipur,' said inspector Manoj Das, officer-in-charge (II) of the anti-dacoity section.

With information provided by Sarita, officials of the detective department's anti-dacoity section are piecing together the plot that blazed a trail through banks in Calcutta, Midnapore, Nadia, Malda, and even Raipur, in Chhattisgarh.

According to Sarita's statement, target number one was Punjab National Bank's Gariahat branch on June 6, 2003. The loot: Rs 6 lakh.

The second strike was at the Kidderpore branch of Central Bank of India on December 16, 2003, where the gang made off with Rs 85 lakh.

Over the next few months, the gang robbed banks in Malda, Nadia and Midnapore. The last operation was carried out in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, early in December 2004.

Sarita always played the pivotal role. Though unlettered, she could converse well in Hindi, English and Bengali. She would move into a rented apartment in the vicinity of some proposed targets. Once a bank was zeroed in on, Sarita would go and open an account there. She would regularly visit the bank and chat up officials while taking note of every crucial detail.

On the basis of the information provided by her, the gang would chalk out its plans.

After the strike, the dacoits would return to the flat and then split up. Thereafter, Sarita would slowly stop frequenting the bank.

This time, Sarita had hired a flat on Prince Anwar Shah Road, but the sleuths were hot on her trail.

After Pappu was apprehended last Monday, Mukesh arranged for an emergency meeting with Sarita the next day at the flat, and the duo walked right into the cop trap.

Sleuths recovered several detailed sketches of some banks in the Golf Green-Lake Gardens area from the flat, which had all been prepared by Sarita.

'Sarita has revealed that the gang was planning yet another strike in south Calcutta,' said a senior police official working on the case.

Police sources also said there is a second 'mystery woman' involved in the case.

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