Part two of the case of the missing laptop. For two and half days, Express Avenue’s security had led me to believe that there was nothing suspicious in any of the footage they saw.

On the evening of November 9 — three days after my laptop bag went missing from my car, at the parking lot of Express Avenue — I get a call from the D2 Anna Salai inspector (crime). He asks me to come to the mall.

I meet him near the entrance to General Patters Road. He tells me he has examined the CCTV footage and has taken some video clips and images on his thumb drive as evidence.

“There is one suspicious person in a car but nothing conclusive,” he tells me.

“What do you mean suspicious?”

“Come to the station and see for yourself.”

I get to the D2 Anna Salai police station from the mall. The ‘evidence’ from the CCTV footage comprises 25 files: 22 bitmap images of CCTV screen captures and three videos.

The inspector allows me to see the images and videos on the desktop computer at the station and offers that I take copies for myself.

As I see the images, he tells me what he suspects: “There is this fellow in a Maruti car. He enters the parking around 7 p.m. and keeps parking his car in five or six locations in different basements. He never steps into the mall. He parks his vehicle next to yours around 9.30 p.m. and stays there for half an hour. He walks out, keeps moving around your car. The camera does not catch him breaking open the window or any such thing.”

I reel under the shock of hearing this. For two and half days, Express Avenue’s security had led me to believe that there was nothing suspicious in any of the footage they saw.

One of the three videos, running to a duration of 22 minutes, is most telling: a small grey car parks next to my car at exactly 9.37 p.m. The panning and sweeping camera captures the driver walking around my car, stopping by every door, and hovering around till 9.58 p.m. The car is gone by 10 p.m.

Since the camera is moving constantly, it is hard to catch the action at one place for more than two minutes.

But two things are very clear: Whoever it was, he did not park his car next to mine to step into the mall for shopping; and he did show excessive interest in my car. In one frame — timed at 9.58 p.m. — he is very close to the back door just before the camera pans away. By the time the camera gets back to the spot around 10 p.m., he is gone.

Questions well inside me: Why were there not any security personnel seen doing rounds of the parking lot at any point in the 22-minute CCTV video? If someone was monitoring the scene from the CCTV room, how could they allow someone in a car to enter their premises at 7 p.m. to just park and re-park all over and leave, as the inspector tells me, without even stepping into the mall? If that is not suspicious behaviour, what is?

“Don't worry. I have identified the car registration number,” the inspector tells me. “I will call you in two days.”

He never makes that call.

Read the concluding part tomorrow: “The arduous journey from a CSR to an FIR”

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