Woman, pretending to be occupant, gives facial to 2 women; steals their chains while they doze

Crimes that use ‘attention diversion’ as a modus operandi are common now – perpetrators asking for directions from victims, or telling victims they have dropped coins, or other such variations. But Sunday afternoon’s crime was unusual even by these standards.

According to police, a young woman went into a working women’s hostel and, claiming to be a beautician, offered facials to two of the women there.

While the women rested, with their eyes closed and cream on their faces, the ‘beautician’ stole their gold chains, weighing four sovereigns in all, and left.

It started as a regular Sunday for P.M. Rajagopal, the owner of J.L. Working Women and Students’ Hostel on Santhome High Road. Since Rajagopal cannot afford a security guard, he sits on a plastic chair at the entrance to the hostel every day, and monitors comings and goings.

Around 10.30 a.m., a tall young woman dressed in jeans and white shirt, came up to Rajagopal. She had luggage with her and was alone, Rajagopal said.

She introduced herself as Shreya from Tenali in Andhra Pradesh and said she needed a room as she had a job offer in Chennai.

“She paid an advance of Rs. 500 and gave me her mobile number for records. Then, she said she wanted to see her room. I introduced her to some of the occupants who were around and they began talking,” Rajagopal said.

Rajagopal claimed he had asked the woman for identity proof and a photograph but she said she would give him the documents in the evening.

Around 3.30 p.m., police said, Shreya told two women – Sulochana, who works at an IT firm, and Kanimozhi, a student, that she could give them facials.

“The girls agreed, and Shreya applied cream on their faces and placed cotton wool over their eyes. She asked them to remove their jewellery so that lotions did not spill on them. The girls obliged and were soon dozing,” said Rajagopal.

When they opened their eyes again after a while, their gold chains were missing. They told Rajagopal, who informed the Foreshore Estate police.

Calls to the number provided by Shreya were in vain, as it was answered by a man who knew only Telugu and kept saying it was the wrong number.

Since there are no CCTV cameras at the hostel, finding the young woman may be difficult, said a police officer, adding that all hostels should install security equipment.

“The woman spent six hours with the occupants before committing the crime. We insist that hostels and lodges install CCTV cameras, but most hostels do not follow this rule. They are also supposed to get identity proof from potential occupants before allotting rooms,” said a police officer.

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