Sweety hit-and-run in Greater Noida: In two weeks, police pick errant car from among 12,000 vehicles
Police neither had the complete vehicle number of the Santro nor was there any physical evidence at the mishap spot
It took the Gautam Budh Nagar police more than two weeks to trace the white Santro car that rammed three students on New Year’s Eve in Greater Noida. Despite there being no CCTV cameras on the stretch where the accident took place to offer a clue, police were able to crack the case in two weeks.
Police neither had the complete vehicle number of the Santro nor was there any physical evidence at the mishap spot.
On December 31, around 9pm, a vehicle hit three students of a private college in Noida, near Alpha 1 bus stop, while they were walking back home after buying groceries.
One of the students, 22-year-old Sweety Kumar, who is from Bihar, suffered severe head and leg injuries.
A couple in a Baleno car, which was behind the white Santro that hit the students, witnessed the accident and took the three students to the hospital.
While Kumar is still admitted to hospital, the other two students, who sustained minor injuries, were discharged after treatment.
The only lead officials got from the eyewitnesses was that the vehicle was a white Santro.
Describing how the police solved the case, police commissioner Laxmi Singh said officers started by shortlisting more than 12,000 vehicles.
Going by the footage from CCTV cameras that were nearest to the accident spot, police were able to ascertain that three cars were in the area around the time of the accident -- a white Santro, a Baleno and a red Audi. So, the police questioned the owners of the Audi, and learned that the white Santro had a ‘UP16’ number plate, which meant it was registered in Noida.
“We then sought help from the regional transport office, which shortlisted all white Santros registered in Noida. There were as many as 12,000 such vehicles. By then, we received a high-resolution blown-up image from a CCTV camera, which vaguely gave us two more digits of the number plate. This reduced the list significantly to around 1,000 vehicles. We then started looking for owners of all such vehicles,” said Singh.
Police teams were also following up on another lead. They were looking for car mechanics or shops that may have repaired a vehicle with a similar description shortly after the accident.
A car registered with a hospitality sector employee in Greater Noida very closely matched the description. It was spotted in the area at the time of the accident and had a dent on its body, where it may have hit three people, police learnt. But a further probe revealed that it was not the car that they sought.
After questioning the owners of more than 1,000 vehicles, police shortlisted four cars that may have been involved in the crime.
However, the next challenge was finding the owners of the four vehicles.
Officers found that the car in question was sold more than once and the suspect was not its first owner-- the vehicle was not registered in his name.
“This was our main obstacle. The owner of the first car sold the vehicle years ago. It was with another man from Delhi whom we managed to trace. He sold it to an agent in Noida who sold it to another customer. It is difficult to even track these agents who often give fake addresses or shift houses frequently,” said Singh.
However, the fourth car turned out to be the one they sought.
The suspect had bought it in the name of a second-hand car dealer or agent.
After questioning a network of agents in whose name the car was bought and sold multiple times, police finally got the details of the suspect currently using the vehicle-- construction contractor Gulab Singh.
The contractor was returning from a party on New Year’s Eve and was allegedly drunk when the accident happened, a senior police officer said, citing the confession statement of the suspect.
“During our investigations, the suspect admitted that he was returning home from a party on December 31, and was drunk when he hit the students. He also said he was not in his senses and could not remember how he got home. The next morning, after seeing a cracked window on the car, he got it replaced and told the mechanic that he didn’t know how the window broke,” said Dinesh Kumar Singh, additional deputy commissioner of police, Greater Noida.
Police chief Singh said police teams in all three zones of the district will soon start checking for such older vehicles and seize them if ownership and registration documents are not updated.
“We realised that such multiple ownership of one car, people driving or riding vehicles whose ownership has not been transferred properly or whose documents are not updated, are involved in several criminal activities. Often it is easy to spot older vehicles on the road. These need to be regularly checked and seized if required,” said Laxmi Singh.
In the National Capital Region, petrol vehicles older than 15 years and diesel vehicles older than 10 years have to get a noobjection certificate for another district or they will be seized.
“We have a list of all such vehicles registered in Gautam Budh Nagar and notices have been sent to owners. Older polluting vehicles are not allowed in NCR. In cases where a vehicle has been transferred many times, through agents, it is mandatory that people get the ownership transferred in their name. Most of the times, while the ownership is transferred, people give wrong address and phone numbers, which leads to problems,” said Siyaram Verma, additional regional transport officer.
Meanwhile, doctors said Kumar is neurologically stable, though surgery for her leg is still pending and a full recovery will take a few months.