SMS foils Salt Lake dacoity
|The Salt Lake house targeted by the robbers. (Bishwarup Dutta)|
Calcutta, July 5: A six-word text message alert from a gagged Salt Lake homemaker and rapid response from her relatives from a neighbouring block led to the capture of three armed robbers whose accomplices opened fire and hit the family’s car before fleeing.
The gang had raided the two-storeyed house (CF 71), a stone’s throw from Bidhannagar north police station, around 8.15 tonight. Barring one, all the nine members of the business family were at home.
The robbers, who came in a Sumo that was left behind, rang the doorbell and when domestic help Raju Mondol opened the door, they forced him at gunpoint to lead them inside.
The gang tied the hands of the family members — two men, three women and four children — behind their back, gagged them and lodged them in a room on the ground floor. Three domestic helps were also tied up.
“The next thing they did was take away all the cellphones and snap all the landlines in the house,” said head of the family Ratan Lal Gadia. But his chhoti bahu, Neeru Gadia, hid her cellphone, which was already on silent mode.
The gang asked the family where the valuables were kept. “We handed over the keys and told them not to harm anyone. We told them they could take anything,” said Ratan Lal.
While the robbers raided the house, Ratan Lal’s elder son Sunil arrived and rang the doorbell. One of the robbers put a gun to Sunil’s head and led him to the hostage room. A robber who was watching over the family then stepped out.
Neeru, whose phone was near her waist, managed to loosen the rope and reach the instrument. She keyed in the words “daku at home help don’t call” and tried sending the message to her sister. It got delivered after several attempts.
Neeru’s sister was in a neighbouring block with her father and husband. She alerted her father who mobilised other relatives in Salt Lake. They sent two relatives to the police station, rushed to CF 71 and waited outside for the cops to arrive. After 10 minutes, two policemen arrived on a motorcycle from the police station, located 500 metres from the house.
“We were shocked that only two cops came. We told them to do something. But they kept standing. With no other option, we broke the door open,” said Shankar Lal Gupta, Neeru’s father. “When we entered, we saw two men in their mid-twenties trying to flee from the rear exit. We challenged them. They brandished their revolvers. We hid behind the sofa and told the police to fire at them. But they did not.
“The situation remained the same for over three minutes when the robbers fired a shot in the air and lunged at the boundary wall. We ran and overpowered them,” said Gupta.
Four other robbers heard the commotion and jumped from the verandah. The police confronted the robbers who fired at least four rounds. Two bullets hit the windscreen of the car parked outside the house.
While one robber was caught, the other two scaled the wall, waylaid a motorcyclist and took away the vehicle at gunpoint.