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HindustanTimes Wed,20 Aug 2014

Police zero in on suspect in Park Plaza heist

Monica Sharma, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, February 14, 2013
First Published: 10:17 IST(14/2/2013) | Last Updated: 10:18 IST(14/2/2013)

In what could lead to a major breakthrough in the Sector-17 Park Plaza theft case, the police have zeroed in on an outsider. He has also been caught on the surveillance camera of the hotel and efforts are on identify him. The police believe that he had a major role to play in the February 11 theft.

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The reception staff told the police that an outsider had come to them at around 8.45am, just two hours before the incident, to inquire whether Mohit Singla, the guest on the third floor, had taken breakfast.

Swinging into action, the police saw the surveillance camera footage at the reception and saw the man sitting on a sofa in the lobby; he had then proceeded to the reception. The police said the man was burly and middle-aged.  He left the hotel at 11.58am via the main gate.

The thieves, who robbed the non-resident Indian (NRI) couple of jewellery worth lakhs at the hotel, had executed the plan meticulously, but in the process also left some clues that point towards the connivance of hotel staff. A reproduction of the event revealed that the theft could not have been possible without 'inside' help.

To begin with, Mohit Singla had got a call in his room around 9am, which had gone unattended. After a few minutes, Singla had called up the reception, but they had categorically refused to acknowledge the call.

Chandigarh police revealed that around 10.30am, the couple had received a couple of calls to come down to the dining hall for breakfast.

Finally, around 10.58am the couple left for breakfast. Investigations reveal that after two minutes the reception had received a call from an unidentified caller that keys to room number 317 had been misplaced and a duplicate may be sent upstairs. Close to 11.07am, a door card had been handed over to an unknown person on the third floor.

The police believe that more than one person was involved in the case. A single individual, in all probability, kept tab on the movement of the couple in the dining room, while the other used the intercom next to the lift on the third floor.

The very fact that the call originated from the third floor intercom, indicates the involvement of a staffer, as access to the floors is limited.  Another surprising fact that has emerged during the investigation is that the bellboy did not check the identity of the stranger, before handing over the key-card to him.

The police say the bellboy has not been able to provide a description of the person, as he does not recall the incident very distinctly. The police added that while 16 surveillance cameras were installed to keep a round-the-clock vigil, they were killed from the master controls of the cameras. Therefore, the culprits knew where the master switch was. The police added that the stairs taken by the thieves to decamp with the booty was, most probably the one used by the staff.

The couple had returned to their room around 11.58am and had found the room ransacked and their bags open. So far the hotel staff has not come out with a categorical denial of the involvement of its staff. The management has stated that it was extending its full cooperation to the police. The crime branch of Chandigarh Police has also got involved in the investigations now.

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