The investigation into the escape of three undertrials from a prison van in Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh, has found that a countrymade pistol used to kill two policemen seated in the van with the prisoners was sneaked inside Chandausi court and handed over to the undertrials during lunch hours. Constables Harender Singh Siroi (58) and Brajpal Singh (28) were killed in the incident, which took place on Wednesday evening while the prison van was taking the prisoners from the court to Moradabad jail.
Police also said the driver and two policemen seated in the driver’s cabin did not hear the scuffle inside the van and that the three undertrials used chilli powder to subdue the two policemen, who they eventually shot, and the 21 other inmates.
Shakeel, Kamal and Dharampal were on trial for the abduction and murder of a Moradabad-based engineer in 2014. Police said they were to be sentenced on July 20 and have other cases of kidnapping, robbery and murder against them.
SP (Sambhal) Yamuna Prasad said, “The other prisoners said the three used chilli powder to subdue them. They ducked under seats and the accused shot the policemen. The three then pried open the first gate’s lower portion and broke open the second door.”
IG STF Amitabh Yash, who has been brought in with a Commando unit to track down the three prisoners, told reporters that the gun was sneaked in during lunchtime. Police have detained 12 relatives of the three accused who may have visited the court and sneaked in the pistol and chilli powder.
The van’s driver Krishna Murari Tiwari said, “I did not hear the scuffle. We heard two gunshots later. I stopped the van and got down. I saw three men fleeing with a countrymade pistol and a service rifle. I opened the door and found bodies of the policemen and the prisoners ducked under seats.”
The police are now looking at how the three managed to enter the van with a weapon. In-charge of police lines in Bhajoi, where the policemen were stationed, said it was their responsibility to check. “We do not check inmates when we come from jail. But it was our responsibility to check them after their court appearance,” said police lines in-charge Chundamani Joshi. He, however, added that they were reeling under staff crunch
Tiwari said no security check was conducted when the prisoners were put on the van to be taken back from court.
According to UP police guidelines, two head constables and eights constables should escort 16- 25 prisoners. In this case, there were only four policemen in the van.
Families of the deceased policemen have accused the police of negligence. Siroi’s son Atul said he did not understand how three prisoners were able to sneak a weapon inside the van. Singh’s sister Sudha said, “He hated escorting prisoners… it was a dangerous task.”