IN an early morning encounter on Thursday,five persons allegedly involved in two daring bank robberies in Chennai were shot dead by the police after a brief gunfight in the southern part of the city. Four of them hailed from Bihar,while another was from West Bengal.
Police claimed to have recovered bundles of currency,five pistols,two revolvers and ammunition from the house they were holed up in. The cash is believed to be part of the loot from their latest heist on Monday.
According to the police,after checking CCTV footage from other banks in the vicinity of the two banks that were looted at gunpoint within a month,they zeroed in on a youth who they believed was conducting a recce for the robberies.
The officials of the two branches of Bank of Baroda and Indian Overseas Bank which were looted both did not have CCTVs confirmed their suspicions,and the video clips and photographs of the youth,later identified as M Vinod Kumar,were released to the public through the media on Wednesday. Soon,the police started receiving several calls claiming to have seen the person.
We checked over 400 hours of footage to zero in on Vinod Kumar, said city police commissioner ADGP J K Tripathy. We checked each lead,including one that informed us that this person was at a house in Velachery along with a few others, he said.
By around 11 pm last night,a team of policemen led by Deputy Commissioner of Adayar,R Sudhakar,took position at the Tamil Nadu Housing Board colony near a three-storey house in which the suspects were reported to be residing.
Our officials surrounded the house and knocked on the door,asking the inmates to identify themselves. But they opened fire from inside. Officials then asked them to surrender,but they continued shooting. This is a crowded,congested residential area where there are a large number of civilians. As self-defence and also to protect the innocent civilians in the vicinity,the officers opened fire in return, said Tripathy.
All five suspects were killed in the brief gunfight that ensued,which also left two inspectors,P Ravi and Christian Jayaseel,injured. The police officials have been admitted to the Government Royapettah Hospital.
From voter identity cards and a driving licence recovered from the house,police identified the five as M Vinod Kumar and K Chandrika Ray from Fatuah in Patna,Bihar; P Harish Kumar from Purushottampur village in Raghopur block,Bihar; Vinay Prasad,Bahapur village,Nalanda district,Bihar; and V Abhay Kumar,GT Road,Shibpur,Howrah,West Bengal.
Police believe the gang leader was Vinod Kumar,reported to be an alumnus of an engineering college in Chennai. After completing the course,Vinod Kumar is said to have continued to stay in Chennai,working as an agent and bringing in students from north India. However,Tripathy said the police were yet to ascertain the details and history of the youths.
The bank robberies took place on January 23 and February 20,both Mondays,during noon. After threatening the officials and customers at gunpoint,the gang escaped with the daily collections of Rs 19 lakh from BoB and Rs 14 lakh from IOB.
Tripathy said the latest cash haul and guns were packed in two bags found at the house,adding that the gang may have been planning to leave the city soon. Inquiries revealed they had shifted to the house in December,paying Rs 20,000 in advance and a monthly rent of Rs 5,000. Locals said they kept to themselves,and sometimes were not seen for days.
With questions being raised about the encounter,a judicial magistrate inquiry has been initiated.