The Telegraph
Saturday , February 15 , 2014
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By Jove! Lady gulps down 8-carat sapphire

- CCTV catches swallow-and-replace act

A woman allegedly swallowed an eight-carat yellow sapphire worth Rs 2 lakh at a jewellery showroom in Gariahat on Thursday afternoon and replaced it with a fake that failed to escape a salesman’s trained eye.

An X-ray showed the gemstone lodged in the woman’s abdomen but it wasn’t recovered until Friday evening, by which time police had fed her two dozen bananas.

A purgative prescribed by a medical officer with a magistrate’s consent apparently achieved what the bananas couldn’t.

The yellow sapphire — pokhraj in Hindi — that the woman had washed down with a glass of water is around 2.5cm in diameter.

The accused, who the police described as an English-speaking young woman in her mid-30s, hasn’t been identified yet. “She gave her name as Nibedita Mukherjee but we aren’t sure yet if that’s her real identity. She also gave us an address that has been found to be fictitious,” an officer at Gariahat police station said.

The woman is a familiar face at the Senco Gold showroon, having made a few visits recently. “She had been coming here for the past three-four days, on each occasion looking for a yellow sapphire that astrologers say enhances the effect of Jupiter on a person’s fortunes.

On Thursday, she picked up one pokhraj after another before asking for a glass of water, which she quickly emptied. There was a rush at the store and nobody noticed anything right then,” representative of Senco said.

The woman’s alleged bluff was called by the salesman who had showed her the gemstone. He sensed something was amiss on seeing the fake and decided to check its weight.

“The gemstone wasn’t looking real. It was found to be of a different weight than the one we had showed her. The woman denied doing anything illegal but when we checked the CCTV footage, it was evident she had swallowed it. We called the police after that,” the Senco official said.

The accused, dressed in a pair of jeans and a red kurti, was caught on camera picking the gemstone between her fingers, popping it into her mouth and then putting something else on the tray, police sources said.

When confronted by the cops, the woman said she was a graduate from a reputable college and hadn’t done anything wrong. But she admitted to the alleged crime on being told that a CCTV camera had captured everything, the sources said.

The more difficult part was recovering the pokhraj. A person accused of gulping down something that needs to be recovered is at first made to eat bananas, a natural laxative. Medicines need a magistrate’s sanction and are given only if the fruit fails.

“Now that the gemstone has been recovered, it’s court property till the case is disposed of. The accused has been remanded in police custody till February 17,” the deputy commissioner of police (southeast division), Debabrata Das, said.

A yellow sapphire, which many wear as a ring for “prosperity”, is priced depending on its weight and carat.

The effect of the pokhraj on the woman accused of trying to steal it could be just the opposite, though. “She is liable for a jail term of up to three years, if proved guilty,” a lawyer said.