Key suspect detained in Tiruchi jewellery heist

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Daring heist: The hole in the wall of the jewellery shop

A day after the sensational heist at the Lalithaa Jewellery in Tiruchi, the police detained one of the suspects in Tiruvarur district on Thursday evening.

According to police sources, the suspect, identified as Manikandan, was detained during vehicle checks by a police team. He was allegedly in possession of some jewellery, the barcode of which is said to have matched those stolen from the showroom on Wednesday. An accomplice of Manikandan managed to escape from the spot, the police said.

Senior police officers, however, said the suspect was being interrogated to establish if he was a member of the gang that broke into the showroom wearing masks.

Five questioned

Late on Wednesday, the police picked up five persons hailing from Jharkhand, who were staying at a lodge in Pudukottai, for questioning, to ascertain if they had any role in the heist.

The five men were brought to Tiruchi and subjected to intensive questioning by the police.

Another man, who was staying with them, allegedly jumped out on seeing the police team and sustained an injury on his head, and is undergoing treatment in Pudukottai. The police are guarding him.

The men claimed that they had come to Pudukottai a few days ago to sell clothing. The police said that while their role in the case was yet to be established, they were suspected to have committed other offences, using a similar modus operandi.

Seven special teams are probing the case. Each team has been assigned a specific task to get hold of tangible clues, to narrow down on culprits involved in the offence. The teams also continued to sift through footage from CCTV cameras installed in the outlet and its vicinity. Video footage recorded for nearly a month at the outlet was closely examined. They also collected mobile call records, besides conducting enquiries with cab drivers nearby, and examining the list of ex-convicts.

The outlet had over 50 cameras inside. Although cameras were also installed at the outlet’s entrance, the camera on the rear side of the three-storeyed showroom, from where the masked men gained entry, was found not to be working, sources said

Police baffled

The police are baffled as to how the four security guards, deployed at the outlet’s entrance, failed to hear the sound of a large hole being drilled by the burglars in the wall of the building, and how they decamped with the booty after remaining inside for two full hours. The culprits had drilled the hole close to the spot where the outlet’s manager usually sits, to gain quick and immediate access to the chain of showcases, where jewellery was placed in rows.

The culprits sprinkled chilli powder at the spot, apparently believing that this would prevent police detective dogs from following their scents. A few empty packets of chilli powder were found near the crime scene.

The possibility of the involvement of a gang from north India cannot be ruled out, going by the modus operandi of the culprits, said a police officer.

As part of the investigation, police teams continued enquiries with jewellery showroom staff, numbering over 150, for the second day. Experts also poured over forensic evidence gathered from the crime scene.

The police also recovered a screw driver, allegedly used by the culprits and left behind at the crime scene. Although video footage show only two masked men committing the crime inside the outlet, the police say there is a possibility that more men were involved in the crime. The culprits must have made several reconnaissance visits to the showroom prior to executing the crime, the police said.

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