Once again, technology helped Chandigarh police crack the Park Plaza theft case, in which thieves had decamped with valuables worth Rs 15 lakh apart from Canadian dollars from the room of an NRI couple on February 11.
Chandigarh police had claimed on Sunday of cracking the theft case with the arrest of a professional Ramesh Bhanaji Chhag from near a hotel in Malad, Mumbai. Meanwhile, mastermind Jayesh R Sejpal continues to elude the police, which have so far not ruled out the possibility of the involvement of hotel staff in the crime.
A senior police officer said that they had zeroed in on two outsiders caught on surveillance cameras at the hotel on February 13.
The police had received an input about a similar theft at Hotel Radisson in Jalandhar a day before the heist at Park Plaza. Both hotel staff and police scrutinised the CCTV footage of Radisson and Park Plaza and saw the same two suspects in the footage.
Chhag and Sejpal were seen roaming around in the hotel, idling their time in the lobby and even following the guests entering the hotel and going up to their rooms. They were also constantly talking over the phone.
The senior officer said that after zeroing in on the suspect, they forwarded relevant information and photos of the accused to police of other states. Technical surveillance of the mobile phones helped them identify the suspects and later zero in on them.
UT inspector general of police RP Upadhyaya said, “The CCTV footage of Hotel Park Plaza led to the breakthrough in the case. In fact, the information about a similar theft in Jalandhar and the CCTV footage of that hotel helped us in zeroing in on the accused.”
How police got cracking?
After scouring the CCTV footage, police zeroed in on two suspects who entered the hotel along with the NRI doctor couple on February 10. The accused followed the couple to their room. The next day, the duo came around 8.30am. From the CCTV recordings, police focused on the suspects who were seen sitting in the lobby for a long time. They also had breakfast in the lobby itself.
The time the duo moved out of the hotel also tallied with that of commission of the crime. Police later went through the CCTV footage from Hotel Radisson too and after comparing notes, concluded the presence of the duo in Jalandhar hotel as well. Police sources dubbed the accused as “quite smart even though not well-educated”. Chhag had been committing such thefts at high-end hotels for the last 13 years. Both the accused hailed from Mumbai.
Hotel mgmt speak
Apparently wiser after the heist, Park Plaza hotel management is contemplating changes in hotel infrastructure to ensure more security.
Hotel general manager Gagandeep Singh told Hindustan Times, “The hotel image has been sullied due to the theft case even though the accused are outsiders.”
Staff members found negligent in the case would face strict action. Hotel staff had erred in not checking the identity of the person who was handed the duplicate key to the room, the GM added.
Gagandeep claimed that the entire episode had actually demoralised the staff who had to face rigorous questioning by police since everyone was a suspect till the real culprit was caught.
Gagandeep insisted that CCTV cameras installed at the hotel were neither switched off and nor were defunct on February 11, the day the crime was committed.
The hotel has a total of 72 cameras, out of which 16 cameras on the second and third floor had allegedly malfunctioned on February 11.
The general manager said a control room with digital video recorders (DVRs) manages the entire CCTV functioning on the premises. It had actually stopped working for about two hours when the theft took place. When the DVRs were checked with a click of a mouse, the entire CCTV became functional again.