Thieves struck when the driver of the van, security guard and the delivery-in-charge stepped out for lunch

On Monday afternoon, thieves drove away a van full of gold and diamond jewellery worth over Rs. 3 crore, from an eatery in Mambakkam on the Chennai-Bangalore highway. The consignment belonged to Titan’s jewellery division.

The thieves struck when the driver of the van Sathish had parked the vehicle near the Sri Amman Hotel and walked in to lunch at around 1.45 p.m. The security guard, Subramani and the delivery-in-charge, Rajendran travelling in the van, also stepped out for lunch at the time.

According to Sriperumbudur police, the thieves abandoned the vehicle at a spot 4 km from the eatery after breaking open the van’s grille gate and the aluminium boxes containing the jewellery and escaping with the booty.  The thieves left behind a gun belonging to the security guard that had been in the van.

The police said that Nadiya, owner-cum-cashier of the eatery, told them that the three men had sat down and ordered parotta when Sathish jumped up with a start and screamed that the parked van with the jewellery was missing.

The trio searched in vain for the van, travelling in a share autorickshaw for a few kilometres. Then, they approached the Sriperumbudur police.

After a combing operation, the police found the abandoned vehicle among bushes in Vadamangalam. Senior police officers visited the spot. Six special teams have been formed to investigate. Police personnel are also carrying out a thorough inspection at all checkposts en route and investigators are examining CCTV footage from tollgates in the area for clues.

Sources in Titan Industries said the van belonged to the logistics firm, with whom they had a tie-up to pick up and drop gold at stores.

“It is a daily service and they follow a routine. They pick up jewellery from the Hosur factory. Then they go to stores run by Titan’s jewellery division, which owns Tata Gold Plus and the Tanishq stores to drop off fresh jewellery and pick up old jewellery exchanged by customers as well as stocks,” said a source.

As part of their itinerary, on Monday, the van had been to stores in Vellore and Kancheepuram and was heading towards Chennai. “The driver and staff accompanying the vehicle are not supposed to have had lunch together. We had suggested that they have lunch at company stores. The security guard was supposed to have stood near the van at all times,” he said.

(With inputs from Deepa H. Ramakrishnan)

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