Beware! Robbers stalk Walayar-Coimbatore national highway stretch

According to police officers, the Walayar-Madukkarai stretch of NH 544 is notorious for highway robberies, often targeting businessmen and those suspected of carrying large sums of money.
Representative image
Representative image

KOCHI: Aslam Siddique exhibited remarkable presence of mind when he and three others narrowly escaped a gang of armed highway robbers on the Salem-Kochi National Highway near Madukkarai last week. The harrowing incident took place in the early hours of June 14.

The 27-year-old Pattimattom resident, who runs an advertisement firm in Kochi, is still reeling from the shock of the near-fatal encounter.

“I acted instinctually and managed to speed away from the scene and evade the robbers. Had we not driven off, the outcome could have been tragic. The ordeal, though brief, was a terrifying 30 seconds that I cannot put into words,” Aslam recalled.

According to police officers, the Walayar-Madukkarai stretch of NH 544 is notorious for highway robberies, often targeting businessmen and those suspected of carrying large sums of money. Although many cases go unreported, the few that do, like Aslam’s, highlight the dangers.

After purchasing computers and accessories from Bengaluru, he was returning home with his friend Charles and two staff members, Nithin and Akshay. Their car was ambushed by a gang travelling in three vehicles, who began smashing the windshield. Aslam, who was behind the wheel, accelerated and reached the L&T toll plaza where the presence of people deterred the robbers from pursuing them further.

Aslam then contacted a nearby police patrol and complained with the Madukkarai police, which has led to the arrest of five persons from Palakkad so far.

“We didn’t notice the attackers until they were right on us. I thought they might have been local residents upset over something like overtaking, given our Kerala registration,” he said.

The assailants had followed them from the previous traffic signal they crossed.

Videos of the dramatic chase, captured on dash cameras, quickly went viral on social media. Using the footage and the toll plaza recordings, the police tracked down and arrested four suspects within hours. The probe revealed that the gang had mistakenly believed Aslam was transporting unaccounted cash. “We were innocent victims, yet I am now burdened with legal hurdles to retrieve my vehicle from Coimbatore. I hope the government will expedite the process since we did nothing wrong,” Aslam said.

He praised the quick response by the TN police in resolving the case.

The robbers employ various tactics to deceive motorists, said an officer with the Highway Patrol unit of the Kerala Police. These include staging fake accidents to lure drivers out of their vehicles, spreading oil on windshields to force a stop, or using women decoys to seek help. “The highway often witnesses robbery after the gangsters create fake accident scenes. When the driver stops the vehicle, noticing a man lying on the road with his two-wheeler, the other members pounce upon the motorists and decamp with valuables,” the officer said.

The robbers also spill oil on the windshields without the driver noticing it. “Subsequently, one of them would follow the vehicle on another vehicle and point out the oil leakage. When the driver stops to check the issue, the other gang members rob everything after unleashing an attack on those inside the vehicle,” he said.

Safety tips

  • Avoid stopping in deserted areas or isolated spots

  • Travel close to larger vehicles for added security

  • Do not stop in front of ATMs located in secluded places

  • Be wary of strangers pointing out issues with your vehicle unless you detect a problem yourself

  • Stop only at well-lit, populated locations such as restaurants or fuel stations

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