Two days after the police encounter in a Housing Board Colony in Velachery resulted in the death of five suspected bank robbers, the neighbourhood is still reeling in shock and surprise.
Most residents were aghast at the choice of location for a hideout — the narrow, crowded lane of A.L. Muthali Second Street, dotted with tiny boxy-like apartments. Some families that live a stone's throw away from Plot No. 335 have packed and left due to heavy police presence.
Police have barricaded the lane leading up to the encounter scene and continue to deny access to some of the immediate neighbours. Policemen on the spot said that the magistrate investigating the case spoke to seven residents during her visit on Thursday afternoon.
Sridevi Udayasuriyan, who lives just 20 meters away from the apartment where the encounter happened, continues to maintain that she heard nothing. “I am still surprised that I did not hear the gunfight. Maybe we were very tired and slept soundly. But, I remember occasions when we have come out running because people next door were quarrelling.”
She says that neither the police nor the magistrate spoke to her. Others such as Bhavani, residing in Plot No.338, say they did hear some noises, but nothing resembling a full-fledged gunfight. None of the residents, including about half-of-a-dozen of them who were awake at 1 a.m. on Thursday, actually saw the encounter.
In the meantime, police personnel ventured into the apartment for the first time on Saturday to retrieve the guns. One of the five pistols is believed to be of German-make. A police official who picked up and inspected the guns said that out of the 10 rounds that a magazine can hold, three and seven rounds remained in two of the pistols. In at least one pistol, the magazine had been rammed in so hard that the weapon could not fire.
The police official, who was also part of the 14-member raiding party, said that the tip-off came from the daughter of the landlord. She had called up a Sub-Inspector at the Velachery police station because he was known to the family. But, since the police were getting so many calls from people claiming to have leads on the bank robbers, her information was dismissed. In order to be certain, she had gone to the apartment where the five men were residing under the pretext of using the washing machine. The police official claims that this was when she saw the red, white and black checked shirt that one of the suspects was wearing in the CCTV footage. The Velachery police got this information around 7 p.m. on Thursday and it went up the chain of command.
However, Police Commissioner J.K. Tripathy, in an interview to The Hindu on Friday, had said that the police got pinpoint information only around midnight.
The informant was not available to corroborate the police version of events. Their house, which is in the same colony, has been locked for the past two days, neighbours say. Police sources said they too are unaware about the whereabouts of the family.