It’s not uncommon for cabbies to take passengers for a ride, but the four youngsters, including an 18-year-old girl, arrested on Monday would target taxi drivers on the Eastern Express Highway, loot them and use their taxis to rob others.
After robbing people for a month-and-a-half, the Govandi slum residents ran out of luck when a mobile phone they stole put the police on their trail as it was fitted with a tracking device.
The four arrested — Mohammad Rafiq Mohammad Hanif Khan, 19, Mohiddin Babumiyan Sheikh, 19, Kajal Vilas Pawar, 18, and Arjun Balram Singh, 22 — are school dropouts.
The ingenious plan was conceived by Rafiq, Kajal’s boyfriend, to make some quick bucks, said Shripad Kale, senior inspector of the crime branch (unit 6). The gang would begin their prowl after 9pm. “The men would hide in the bushes on a secluded stretch, and Kajal would hail a taxi. Drivers would stop seeing a lone woman,” Kale said.
As soon as the taxi stopped, the three men would come out and get into the vehicle along with Kajal and tell the driver to take them to Vashi. “After crossing Vashi toll naka, one of them would kick the driver from the back. When he stopped, they would threaten him with a knife, tie him up, gag him and roll him on to the floor of the rear seat,” Kale said.
They would then drop Kajal off at the nearby railway station, and go on a hunt. “They would stop the taxi for solitary male passengers, who’d think it’s share-a-cab. They would rob him of cash and mobile phone, leave him at a secluded spot and hunt for their next prey,” Kale said. “At day break, they would take away the driver’s money, abandon the cab in a secluded place and take a taxi home.” The accused would always return the SIM cards to the victims, assuming that with no SIMs, the phones could not be tracked.
The four accused were caught after they conned a cabbie from Kurla on September 25. The trio drove up to Thane, where they picked up a passenger and robbed him, before dropping him at Panvel. They abandoned the vehicle near Rabale after a tyre burst. The driver was rescued by a police patrol. The crime branch, which began a parallel probe, traced the passenger, who was an engineering student. “He had fitted a tracking device in his phone, and it helped us zero in on them,” Kale said.
Though the gang is suspected to have looted more than a dozen cabbies, only two cases had been registered as the valuables stolen were meagre and they had not harmed anyone. The four have been remanded in police custody for a week.