The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Armyman plays cat-and-mouse
- Former defence personnel dupes travellers and pinches luggage

Patna, May 3: They started playing Bunty and Babli much before Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee brought to life with their flick the tale of two swindlers playing cat-and-mouse with the police.

A week after a teenaged boy was arrested for mirroring John Abraham and lifting vehicles, the Dhoom style, a retired armyman and his wife were caught during a joint raid by the railway and Koelwar (Ara) police on May 1 for stealing luggage from train passengers.

Ramnaresh Pandey, in his mid fifties, retired from the Indian Army in 1998 and started living at Kayamnagar village under Koelwar police station of Bhojpur, about 80 km from here. Apparently burdened with a financial crunch, the soldier chose to adopt the shortcut to becoming rich.

Elaborating on their modus operandi, Patna railways superintendent of police Amitabh Kumar told The Telegraph: “The couple would dress smartly, wear gold rings and chains and travel in AC classes under false names.”

On board, they would impress fellow passengers with lofty talks on patriotism and moral values. As the co-passengers would unwind and fall asleep in the company of their “dignified and respectable” travellers, the duo would slip away with their briefcases and alight at a station between Mughalsarai and Mokama, their territory of operation.

The couple would always have accomplices at every scheduled stop to take away the stolen luggage fast. “The logic was simple — even if some suspected them, they were not going to be caught with the stolen luggage,” the police officer said.

Pandey and his wife had so far looted over 200 passengers, mostly from the long-distance Northeast Express travelling from New Delhi to Guwahati, when their luck gave in.

A joint team of Patna railways and Koelwar police raided the couple’s three-storeyed house at Koelwar on a tip-off and recovered 26 empty suitcases, Rs 90,000 cash, unspecified foreign currency, a country-made pistol with five live cartridges, a laptop, a video camera, two mobile phones and a motorcycle bearing the “police” nameplate.

The couple and their nephew Shashikant Pandey, one of their accomplices, have been booked under the provisions of the Arms Act and sections of the IPC for theft. They are lodged at the Ara jail at present while the police are trying to zero in on the other accomplices.

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