Woman breaches ISRO security with false ID

Special Correspondent
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Stays at guesthouse for two days before being found out

A 40-year-old woman suspected to be suffering from depression breached the high-security ISRO campus on old Airport Road here. Posing as a senior scientist, she stayed in one of the guesthouses for two days.

Despite the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) enforcing multiple security checks for visitors, the woman, Buela M. Sam, managed to enjoy ISRO hospitality for two days before being found out, the police said.

Ms. Sam was unmasked when she tried to venture into another ISRO campus on New BEL Road here on Saturday.

CISF guards stopped her at the entrance for a routine check. She told the guards that she was a senior ISRO scientist and had come to attend a seminar. Suspicious, the guards checked with officials and found there was no seminar. After a more careful check, her ID was discovered to be false.

The officials detained Ms. Sam and handed her over to the jurisdictional J.B. Nagar police.

‘Serious lapse’

The police were baffled when Ms. Sam said she had stayed at the ISRO guesthouse on old Airport Road for two days. “It was a serious lapse as the security personnel needed to check her background with the department before allowing her to stay,” said a police officer.

According to the police, Ms. Sam stays with her parents in Ahmedabad and is married to Alex Thomas, a high school teacher from Kollam, Kerala. A B.Com graduate with a diploma in pharmacy, she was unemployed and being treated for depression, they said.

She used to visit her husband in Kollam frequently, but go missing before returning to Ahmedabad. As this had become frequent, her family did not report her disappearances to the police. This time around, she had been missing from home for 10 days.

Probe into ID

Intelligence Bureau officials, who are questioning Ms. Sam, are now checking her activities inside the campus during her stay. They are looking into how she managed to get an ID card.

According to sources, the accused used an “ISRO Mangalore ID”, though there is no such unit in Mangalore.

A team from the Bangalore police has gone to Kollam to question a person who supposedly got the ID card done.

Her husband has been brought to Bangalore. “She was questioned again in his presence, but the answers were not consistent,” sources said.

City Police Commissioner Jyoti Prakash Mirji said the woman had been booked under sections 171 (forging the identity of a public servant with fraudulent intention), 448 (trespass), 471 (forgery), and 420 (cheating).

She was produced before a magistrate and remanded in judicial custody till October 6.

In hindsight, two staffers of The Hindu who were on assignment at the ISRO headquarters on Friday evening recalled seeing a woman in jeans and T-shirt being quizzed about her ID at the security point. When they left more than two hours later, she was still there, seated next to a gun-toting security guard.

‘Wake-up call’

ISRO did not make an official statement. Some officials, however, were one in saying the breach was a wake-up call for the heavily secured strategic establishment.

From accounts pieced together, the intruder got into the guesthouse at the ISRO Satellite Centre on the old Airport Road on September 19. The next day, she carpooled with a few others and travelled to Antariksh Bhavan, the headquarters of the Department of Space, some 20 km away, on New BEL Road. There, she tried to meet three people; she apparently had their correct names and designations. Her actions there raised suspicion and she was questioned by the CISF.

  • Intelligence Bureau looking into how she got a false ID card

  • ‘Security personnel needed to check her background before allowing her to stay there’

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