It was his maiden visit to a mortuary, and that too to identify the body of a man, who held him at gunpoint barely a month ago.
D. Anandan, teller of the Bank of Baroda's Perungudi branch where the robbers struck first on January 23 and robbed over Rs. 19 lakh, was among 17 bank officials who identified the bodies of the five suspects gunned down in a police encounter in the early hours on Thursday.
Terming the robbery and the identification as the most ‘unforgettable moments' of his life, Mr. Anandan said an overpowering stench that hit him when he entered the mortuary after a four-hour-long wait. “I was shown the body of a clean shaven man. I am 100 per cent sure he was the one who came into our branch brandishing a gun along with two others,” he told The Hindu.
Mr. Anandan recalled the man — who was later identified as the gang's kingpin, Vinod Kumar from Patna — as the one who orchestrated the robbery for full 10 minutes with his left hand hidden in his trouser pocket and the right hand, with the unbuttoned shirt sleeve hanging loose over it, holding a pistol.
“He had disfigured fingers but I hadn't noticed them during the tense moments of the robbery. But I remember his face — he had a stubble then — very clearly as he pointed his gun at me from outside my cabin and shouted at me in Hindi to open the door,” Mr. Anandan said.
Struck by fear, Mr. Anandan had opened the door for Vinod Kumar, who entered the cabin with his accomplice, a short and dark youth whose body the teller identified as well. As Vinod Kumar put the gun on Mr. Anandan's shoulder, the other bundled Rs. 19.73 lakh into a bag after tucking his pistol into his trousers. “The gang leader then hit me on my back with his gun when I said I don't have the keys for safe room. Finally, I gave up after seeing the anger in his eyes. They led me to the safe-room and took Rs. 1.70 lakh while the third robber brought the manager and customers to the room at gunpoint. All three left after warning us not to leave for the next 10 minutes and then yesterday I saw them dead in the mortuary,” he said.
The fourth suspect was a gang member, who was waiting at the main door of the branch as the robbery unfolded.
While the body of the third robber with a gun was identified by the manager of the branch, the fourth was spotted by a clerk in the bank, police sources said.