Information received by Assistant Commissioner, Crime Detachment, Kannur, Sadanandan, triggered the frenzied inter-State police operation, which culminated in the arrest of Devinder Singh alias Bunty Chor, the prime suspect in the Marappalam burglary case.

According to the police, the informant told the officer that he had spotted a white van, of the type stolen from the businessman’s house in the city, on the Tirunelveli-Krishnagiri route.

The vehicle sported Tamil Nadu registration number plates.

The State police had tracked the vehicle’s route till Kanyakumari, where the driver had checked in briefly at a hotel.

Number plate changed

They lost track of the van after the suspect changed its Kerala number plates for Tamil Nadu ones after he passed the Nanguneri toll gate in Tirunelveli.

The caller informed the officer that the vehicle had started moving towards Krishnagiri.

It seemed the driver had felt that he had been spotted. The State police got in touch with their counterparts in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and the law enforcers there cast a “dragnet” for the vehicle and its driver.

The accused gave the slip to the Krishnagiri police but the Karnataka law enforcement intercepted him hours later at Tavarkar in Bangalore.

The police, with just a hazy video frame of the suspect captured by an overhead surveillance camera in the burgled house as the only “immediate lead” in the case, had checked the National Crime Record Bureau’s vast repository of police mug shots of inter-State criminals to tentatively conclude that the suspect could be Devinder Singh, a resident of New Delhi with a criminal past.

He had fleetingly shot into fame last year after he participated in a reality television show, curiously, as a “reformed ex-convict”.

They found the suspect had on January 5 used a cell phone, the number of which he had given at the lodge where he stayed in the city on January 19 and 20, to make a call to an address in New Delhi.

Phone connection

Investigators found the cell phone connection had been initiated at Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district in the name of a migrant labourer from West Bengal, who was yet to be tracked.

Soon, two plainclothesmen flew to New Delhi.

Over the next few days, they kept updating Mr. Vijayan and their team leader, Assistant Commissioner K.E. Baiju, on any information (including photographs, habits, classmates, friends, police records, live-in relationships, past addresses, business and media contacts) they could gather on Devinder.

The State police soon had an idea of who Devinder was likely to contact and which places he would use as a safe house to lie low in the event he gave the law the slip.