Two lorry drivers were relieved of Rs. 44,750 in separate incidents near Kallikudi on the Virudhunagar highway on Thursday.

While M. Soundarapandian (29)) of Tenkasi was relieved of Rs. 40,750 at knifepoint, the other victim, V. Raja (31) of Tirunelveli, was beaten with clubs by masked men as he offered resistance to part with more than Rs. 4,000, the police said. The first incident occurred at Nesaneri at 1.30 a.m. Raja was driving a lorry with a consignment of chlorine cylinders to Karur from Darangadara Chemical Works in Tuticorin district.

The driver had to apply sudden brakes when he saw a man crossing the road in close quarters. The stranger, claiming himself to be a lorry driver, sought his help, saying his lorry engine had conked. When Raja got down from the lorry, three masked persons emerged out of the darkness and assaulted him. The masked men forcibly carried him to the nearby bush.

After punching him on his face, one of them took away money from his shirt pocket. “They asked for more money. When I said that Rs. 4,000 was all that I had, they did not believe me and hit me with clubs,” he said.

When the culprits found that he was about to faint, they left him in the bushes and disappeared.

In the other incident, Soundarapandian was driving a trailer lorry from Chennai to Virudhunagar. His was the last vehicle in a five-lorry convoy. When the convoy reached Sivarakottai, he stopped the vehicle on the service lane for a cup of tea at around 4.30 a.m. He bought a sachet of tobacco and returned to the lorry. When he boarded the vehicle, he saw two persons hiding inside the cabin. Even before he could question them, a third person pushed him from the back.

Suddenly, one of them pulled out a knife and threatened him to part with the cash. “Since the lorry was parked away from the tea shop, no one noticed us,” Soundarapandian said.

After taking the Rs. 40,750 with him, the robbers directed him to drive the vehicle on the four-lane highway. When the lorry crossed a petrol pump, they made him stop the vehicle and disappeared under the cover of darkness. Soundarapandian said that he was spared with just a few punches and a couple of slaps on his cheeks.

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