A SUAVE, dapper man, he left home in Kannur, Kerala, in the afternoon in an expensive car. He parked the car near Kannur railway station and took a bus or train to either Kozhikode or Malappuram. On most days, he did a reconnaissance of big houses in residential areas initially, and raided — often more than one house — during the night. And returned home to Kannur before dawn.
K U Muhammed, the police say, had been at it since 2002, when he was barely 22. In the early hours of Sunday, his luck ran out. Muhammed was arrested while raiding a house in Kozhikode. With the 37-year-old’s arrest, the police have begun to unravel tens of burglaries in the district.
A school dropout, the police say Muhammed owns 19 acres of land, two palatial houses, a furniture mart, and his expensive car —the wealth made from selling gold he stole from homes. The exact number of cases of burglary, theft and housebreak Muhammed was involved in can be confirmed only after getting his custody, Kozhikode assistant police commissioner E P Prithvirajan said on Tuesday. “He is under judicial custody now. Prima facie, we understand he was involved in 100-odd housebreaking cases in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts,’’ Prithvirajan said.
He operated alone, did not carry a mobile phone while on theft missions, was not involved in any crime in Kannur, and never figured in any list of wanted in any police jurisdiction — possibly reasons why he had not been caught in these 15 years, an officer said.
After multiple theft and burglary cases were reported from Kunnamangalm region of Kozhikode, the police recently strengthened night patrolling. In the early hours of Sunday, a special police squad found Muhammed under suspicious circumstances and detained him.
The details emerged from his subsequent arrest and interrogation, according to an officer.
About his modus operandi, the officer said Muhammed would identify big houses with more members — to check the number of people who lived in a house he counted the number of slippers kept outside. He apparently believed that a house with several members had slimmer chances of people getting up, alarmed with noises at odd hours.
According to the officer, Muhammed told relatives and neighbours that he was involved in real estate business. “Suave and well-dressed, he moved around in expensive cars, and could handle any situation without batting an eyelid,” the officer said. “He behaved very well with others, so there was not an iota of suspicion.”