The tall, well-dressed and handsome probationary officer, Raghav Raj, was, to them, anything but what Bitihotra Mohanty alias 'Bitti' could be - a rapist.
So, when the news trickled in, most of Mohanty's colleagues at the State Bank of Travancore branch at Madayi (on the outskirts
of Kannur town) thought it was a case of mistaken identity that had landed the young officer in trouble.
They had every reason for believing so - he looked very different from the photograph in the lookout notice issued by the Rajasthan police six years ago. His hairdo then was different, he wore thick spectacles and had since grown a thick moustache like most south Indians do.
In short, he never showed any symptoms of a man on the run. And they all prayed he shouldn't be.
But they were mistaken. On Saturday, phones at the small branch started ringing early, the office being flooded by inquiries from customers, media and the police alike.
"It is unbelievable, much like a Bollywood potboiler. He was so well behaved and hardworking," said one of Mohanty's colleagues adding that he had seemed disturbed in the last few days.
Fluent in Hindi and English, his long stay in Kannur (more than four years, according to the police) helped him to speak chaste Malayalam.
Though Mohanty was at times "reserved and introvert", none of the bank staff found anything amiss.
"He joined our bank in June 2012, after qualifying the SBI central recruitment cell exam and interview. During this period, we never found anything intriguing or suspicious," said SBT spokesman Renjth Thomas.
What about the background check?
"As a subsidiary of the SBI, we approach the central recruitment cell for new recruits. So, there is no need for us to crosscheck a candidate's antecedents or certificates," said Thomas.
© Copyright © 2013 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.