The disappearance of Pop Star Florence bicycle

Unlike the previous occasion, when the thief wasn’t found, this time it was a matter of pride for the police officials since the new bicycle was a gift from the minister.
Avantika C J, who wrote a letter to the General Education Minister V Sivankutty after her cycle was stolen, received a brand new one as a gift from him
Avantika C J, who wrote a letter to the General Education Minister V Sivankutty after her cycle was stolen, received a brand new one as a gift from him Photo | Express

KOCHI: On the morning of June 21, Avanthika C J woke to the distressing news that her bicycle had been stolen. But this wasn’t just any bicycle, but a special gift from Education Minister V Sivankutty, who had replaced her previous bike, also stolen, just a few months prior.

Yes, you read that right. After her bicycle was stolen on April 28, the determined 15-year-old emailed the minister, detailing her plight. Moved by her story, Sivankutty reached Kochi on June 2 to present her with a new Pop Star Florence bike. He even instructed the police to hasten their search for the thief.

But as fate would have it, her new bicycle was also stolen, sparking a rapid community response to catch the thief within 24 hours. Here’s how it unfolded.

“First, we gathered CCTV footage from all the houses nearby. On it, we saw a person donning a raincoat ride away with Avanthika’s bicycle at around 4.30am,” says her father, Gireesh Madavan.

A short while ago in the same video, the man was seen riding another cycle, likely his own. Armed with this information, Gireesh approached the Palarivattom police station.

Unlike the previous occasion, when the thief wasn’t found, this time it was a matter of pride for the police officials since the new bicycle was a gift from the minister.

“We examined the CCTV footage and confirmed that it was a different person who stole the new bicycle,” says a police officer at Palarivattom station. While the first theft was by a migrant worker, this time it was a local. “We sent the visuals to other police stations and started a search,” the officer adds.

Avanthika’s family, living in a rented house in Palarivattom, enlisted their landlord to circulate the thief’s images in WhatsApp groups of local residents’ associations.

“One evening, we received a call that a bicycle similar to the thief’s was seen near a tea shop in the Vadathipalam area,” Girish says.

On reaching the place, not only did they find the cycle, but we also noticed a bag tied to it, which contained a cutter, an iron rod, and a half-litre liquor bottle. “It was clear that the accused had kept his bicycle near the shop and fled with Avanthika’s. We were certain that he would be back to get his own. So, we waited,” Girish says.

Girish and his friends decided to keep watch. They informed the tea shop owner and even had someone sleep in a car near the shop to catch the thief when he returned.

“We told the tea shop owner to offer him tea and food to delay him. On June 22, around 7:30 am, he showed up to retrieve his bicycle. The tea shop owner stalled him and alerted us. We informed the police, and within 10 minutes, they arrived and took the suspect into custody,” says Girish.

The suspect, Haji, a 56-year-old scrap picker from Thaiparambil, Alappuzha, confessed and revealed he sold Avanthika’s bicycle for Rs 1,500 to a Fort Kochi native. The police recovered and returned the bicycle to Avanthika.

Girish credits the local residents, his friends, and the police for their swift action. “Avanthika is overjoyed to have her bicycle back. It was a gift from the education minister, and she treasures it. We hope it won’t be stolen again,” he adds.

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