One of the accused in the theft of eight rare Brazilian monkeys from the Alipore Zoological Garden has escaped from police custody.

He made good his escape at Jharsuguda in Orissa early Monday morning from the train in which he was being escorted here by the city police.

Rajesh Saikia, who was arrested by the Chhattisgarh Police at Durg on the night of August 28, was being brought on a transit remand to Kolkata by a four-member police team.

The monkeys that were recovered from Saikia were also being escorted by the team in the same train. Accompanying them were Sushanta Bhattacharya, Assistant Director of the Zoo, and two keepers.

Seating arrangement

The group boarded the Ahmedabad Express at Bilaspur late on Sunday night, said Jawed Shamim, Joint Commissioner (Headquarters) of Kolkata Police.

The seating arrangement was such that the group split into two — one comprising two constables and Saikia, and the other, two police officers with the team from the zoo guarding the monkeys, he added.

“He [Rajesh Saikia] probably escaped when the train stopped at Jharsuguda station in Orissa,” Mr. Shamim said, adding that locals there had spotted a man who matched Saikia’s description.

A massive manhunt was immediately launched and the Kolkata Police have asked for the cooperation of the State police of Orissa and Chhattisgarh, Mr. Shamim said.

Seven of the eight monkeys were brought safely to the zoo, where they will be kept in quarantine for two weeks.

“The condition of the monkeys is stable, although they are slightly stressed as they have had to travel a long time in claustrophobic cages,” said Raju Das, Joint Director of the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve, who has taken over additional charge as zoo Director.

Post-mortem

The post-mortem of one of the monkeys who died while in Saikia’s possession will be conducted by officials of the Forest Department of Chhattisgarh, Mr. Das added.

On August 9, zoo authorities discovered the theft of eight rare monkeys from Brazil, known as common marmosets.

The incident created quite a stir and resulted in the suspension of the zoo’s director, Subir Chaudhri, and the dismissal of the managing committee.

Breakthrough

On August 28, investigating agencies achieved a breakthrough when the Chhattisgarh Police recovered seven of the eight stolen marmosets and managed to apprehend Saikia.

A day later, the Kolkata Police also managed to arrest Sujoy Das, whom Saikia had named as an accomplice. Mr. Das is currently in the custody of the Kolkata Police.

Since the two persons arrested in connection with the case had been giving conflicting statements, the police hoped they would be able to learn about their modus operandi by questioning them together, Mr. Shamim said.