Three undertrials escaped from police custody after gunning down two constables using their service rifles in a police van in Sambhal on Wednesday afternoon.
The incident took place near Dewakheda village, under Baniyather police station area, when five constables were returning to Moradabad jail in a police van with 24 undertrials after a hearing at a court in Chandausi, police said.
“The three prisoners were carrying spice powder and used it against fellow inmates and policemen. After they overpowered the two policemen, it appears that they shot them using their weapons. Further investigation is underway,” Sambhal SP Yamuna Prasad said.
The three undertrials have been identified as Kamal Singh, Shakeel and Dharam Pal Singh, all residents of Behjoi village in Bijnor district. They were lodged in Moradabad jail since 2014 and are facing murder charge.
According to one of the constables, Khoob Singh, who was in the prison van and survived the attack, the three undertrials suddenly snatched the service weapons from constables Harendra Singh and Brijpal and shot them, before escaping with the weapons.
Singh told the SP that the criminals were also carrying a country-made pistol and a knife which could have been provided by their relatives at the court.
Police said that the three had been planning the escape for the last three days.
Police have launched a combing operation in the area to track the fugitives.
“We have formed four police teams to trace the undertrials, and sent a separate police party to their village. We are hopeful of arresting the fugitives very soon,” Prasad told The Indian Express over phone.
“All the entry and exit points of Sambhal have been sealed, and we have sought details of those who have recently met the undertials in Moradabad jail,” the SP said.
The Uttar Pradesh government announced a compensation of Rs 50 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased constables, besides a government job for a dependent family member and “extraordinary pensions” to their wives, an official spokesman said.
Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar said that the state government has directed the Sambhal SP to take prompt action.