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Whodunit! Cops clueless 24 hours after Tamil Nadu’s great train robbery

Three police teams in Tamil Nadu are racing against time to crack the case.

india Updated: Aug 10, 2016 17:00 IST
Police personnel stand guard alongside the Salem-Chennai Express train, which was robbed while in transit, at Egmore Railway station in Chennai on August 9.
Police personnel stand guard alongside the Salem-Chennai Express train, which was robbed while in transit, at Egmore Railway station in Chennai on August 9. (AFP)

Three police teams in Tamil Nadu are racing against time to crack the case of the country’s most audacious train robbery. But more than 24 hours later, the police are still clueless.

Robbers had cuta gaping through the roof of Salem Express coach, transporting the soiled currency notes of the Reserve Bank of India to Chennai from Salem, and escaped with Rs 5.75 crore after breaking open two of the 226 wooden trunks on board on Tuesday. The trunks were in two bogies that were sealed from outside.

Investigators are trying to figure out how and where the robbers boarded the train or where they could have cut through the roof of the bogey.

Police have widened their search from the originating point – Erode from where the rakes of the train came – and also were looking at the CCTV footage of all the 10 stations between Salem and Egmore in Chennai where the train terminated.

“We are investigating Erode yard from where the train rake originated, if the hole could have been cut there. We have also questioned the porters who loaded the train and also checking with the bank staff about the people who had information about the money being transported,” said P. Rajmohan, divisional security commissioner, RPF, Salem Railway Division.

The money was loaded in the train in afternoon when the Salem Express was in its yard.

“We are looking at the case from the originating point – the banks in Salem, their staff,” Rajmohan said.

Police personnel walk near the Salem-Chennai Express train. An amount of Rs 5.75 crore was stolen from a moving train as it was being transported to the Reserve Bank of India, police said. (AFP)

“We are leaving nothing to chance and are looking into every angle, including the possibility of it being the handiwork of a gang from outside the state,” said a senior police official associated with the probe.

Nine armed security personnel on guard duty for the consignment, were instead travelling in other bogies. They have also been questioned but are not being suspected in the case, said a police official.

In Salem, a 10-member team comprising railway police, reserve police and Tamil Nadu police is investigating the case.

The investigators have visited Salem station, yard, Erode and inspected the line for few kilometres to check for clues. They have also questioned several people in Salem including bank officials and porters who loaded the money. Railway employees were also being questioned.

Read | Tamil Nadu train heist: A look at famous train robberies across history

The police are yet to come to a conclusion as to where the heist could have been pulled off – between Salem and Vridachalam (most likely as this section of the railway tracks was not electrified) or later at any other station. Investigators are covering an 80 km stretch from Aathur to Vridachalam.

Investigators have picked up finger prints left by the robbers and are checking with the database of gangs of known train thieves. A police officer said a similar heist was carried out by an Andhra Pradesh-based gang in Guntur a few years ago when 10 people allegedly looted valuables in a moving train.

The investigating team from Chennai is headed by government reserve police SP Vijaykumar and has three DSPs. In Tiruchy, a team headed by an SP has been formed.

Railway Police Inspector General M Ramasubramanian said that investigations began after a complaint was filed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Banks routinely send soiled notes to the RBI to replace them with fresh currency of same value.