The robbers have shifted their operations from the Tirumangalam area to Samayanallur

Highway robbers are back after a lull. And this time, the robbers have shifted their operations from the Tirumangalam area to Samayanallur, and struck a lorry.

A three-member gang assaulted the crew of a tile-laden lorry and made off with Rs. 9,000 on the Dindigul-Madurai highway. The driver had stopped the lorry, bound for Tiruchendur from Coimbatore, on the shoulder of the highway when the gang struck.

Four similar cases were reported in March and April in quick succession on the Madurai-Virudhunagar and Tirumangalam-Rajapalayam highways.

However, the lorry owners’ association claims that many incidents of highway robberies are not reported by the owners of trucks and the crew for fear of losing business. “Though we encourage them to lodge a complaint with the police, since the owners and drivers belong to places far away from the scene of the crime, they do not do so,” C. Sathaiah of the Madurai Lorry Operators’ Association says.

In most of the “unreported” incidents, lorries transporting sand were involved. “The robbers know that the drivers collect money for the sand and strike them,” he added.

However, Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan said that if the cases were not reported, it could be because the drivers may have been lured by women or by robbers dressed like women.

In some cases, the drivers had stopped the vehicles, either on seeing women or on being signalled with torchlight. As soon as they alight from the vehicles, they are dragged into the bush, beaten and robbed.

One striking factor is that all these incidents have happened between 1.30 a.m. and 4.30 a.m. The police said the drivers were not able to give convincing replies on why they stopped their vehicles in unsafe and dark areas, far away from motels, shops or truck bays.

The drivers claimed that the robbers, after thoroughly frisking them, checked the cabin and take away the money usually hidden under the seat or elsewhere.

Lack of adequate lighting on the highway also contribute to the robberies. The police say the local bodies are not coming forward to bear the electricity bill of the high-mast lights.

The SP says highway patrolling has been increased to prevent such robberies. The police are on the lookout for an absconding criminal who they suspect to be the mastermind behind many highway robberies in the district.

The best precaution, according to the SP, is not to stop the vehicle at an unsafe spot.

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