Accused suspected of kidnapping a software professional

A mobile telephone call made by one accused to another at the time of the crime helped the police identify, track, and arrest three youths suspected to be responsible for the kidnapping of a software professional for his money, mobile phone and jewellery from a bar hotel in the city Saturday last.

The police arrested the suspects early on Wednesday from a house they had recently rented at Kundamankadavu, a quiet suburban neighbourhood. They are Sanjay Varma, 25, Sreejith, 26, and Pramod, 28, all city residents with no previous criminal record.

The police said the accused were college dropouts with a taste for costly liquor, latest mobile phones, fashionable clothes and footwear. They got acquainted with each other at a roadside restaurant, a favourite evening haunt for college youths.

Easy money

In March, the friends struck upon the idea of preying on regular late night customers at bar hotels to make quick and easy money to fund their expensive lifestyle.

The police said the accused “successfully” ambushed at least 30 people outside bars for their cash and valuables. The youths' lack of a criminal record hid them from the eyes of the police for sometime. Moreover, their victims were often loath to complaint to the police fearing embarrassment in their social circles and most chose to suffer their losses in silence. The gang operated on pay days.

Last Saturday, the accused were on a stakeout at a bar near General Hospital for potential targets. They noticed the software professional who arrived with a relative of his for a quick drink.

The youths lurked near the victim's car that was parked on the road. They took the victim and his relative hostage at knifepoint when they came out of the bar and made them drive their car to an automated teller machine (ATM) at PMG. They asked the victim for his ATM card and its pin number.

Two of the accused remained with their hostages in the car, while Sanjay ventured out to draw cash from the ATM.

Face masked

Investigators said Sanjay entered the ATM with his face masked to avoid being caught on the security camera inside the kiosk. He drew Rs.54,000 from the ATM (in six withdrawals) between 11 p.m. and 11.10 p.m. At the time, Sreejith called him on his mobile and urged him to hurry.

Investigators painstakingly verified over 6,000 calls that had emanated from or were received by mobile phone towers in the locality and finally zeroed in on the phone numbers of the suspects.

Forensic reconstruction

Forensic experts reconstructed Sanjay's face from the images captured by the security camera and it “near accurately” matched the photograph the suspect had submitted to a SIM card vendor to get his mobile phone connection initiated. By Sunday, the police had the mobile phone numbers and photographs of two of the main suspects.

They secretly shadowed the youths. On Tuesday, the police learned that the accused had ordered a home theatre system from an electronic shop. They agreed to pay for the system at the time of delivery to their house. City Police Commissioner Manoj Abraham and his team, including Sub-Inspector (Crime) C. Mohanan, arrested the suspects minutes after the system was delivered at their house.

The police also recovered the entire loot.

The accused were produced before a magistrate court on charges of kidnapping and robbery and remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.

  • They ambushed customers at bar hotels
  • 6,000 calls were verified to zero in on them