Old habits die hard and Dhani Ram Mittal can’t stop stealing a car or two even at 77.
The man — known in police records as Super Natwarlal, Indian Charles Sobhraj, and simply as Super Thief — was arrested for the 25th time on Tuesday since he first landed in prison in 1964.
The septuagenarian kleptomaniac was released on bail only in June after his arrest early this year for a car theft. He allegedly stole at least four cars in the past month.
In his 52-year career in crime, he has amassed at least 128 FIRs; posed as a cop, a judge, a police inspector and government officer, among others.
In the late 1960s, he was a clerk in a Rohtak court. When the judge went on a vacation, he took his chair for over two months and gave bail to many criminals.
A graduate in law and a student of calligraphy, Mittal posed as regional transport officers too and forged car papers. He argues his own case in court.
He had even landed the job of the Rohtak railway station master in 1968, producing fake documents. But was sacked a year later after his bluff was called.
He was arrested this Tuesday after a police team found him driving a Maruti Esteem, which he had allegedly stolen in June.
CCTV footage shows it takes less than a minute for Mittal to break into a car. “That man is a pro. My car was an old Maruti 800 and the CCTV outside my house caught him in the act. It took him less than a minute. I am surprised how a 77-year -old could do that,” a Rohini resident said.
He is old but refuses to change his ways, an investigator explained.
“He says he cannot do without stealing. He steals old cars such as Esteems, Maruti 800s, Hyundai Santros, which do not have security alarms and digital keys. He pretends to be on the phone and uses a master key to break into old cars.”
Police said he must have stolen around 500 cars so far. Mittal allegedly sold his loot to used-car dealers in west Delhi for Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 apiece, depending on the vehicle’s condition.
“He does not need the money. But he has always been a con man. He cannot do anything else, though he is old,” the officer said.
Prison officials know the old, familiar jailbird too, who refuses to be lodged in the separate ward where elderly prisoners are kept. He prefers to hang around with the younger lot, which gives the opportunity to form a new gang each time he goes to prison.
“Every time he goes inside, he makes different associates. He wins the confidence of other prisoners with his legal advice. He has argued their cases too in Delhi courts,” said a police officer.
Outside the high walls of jail, Mittal is a family man, living with his wife and a daughter-in-law in outer Delhi’s Narela. Frustrated over his refusal to reform, his two sons left him and live separately.