CHENNAI/SALEM:The two questions that the investigators are pondering over are: When was the near perfect square hole drilled on the roof of the coach? When was the cash sneaked out of the coach?
The list of people involved in the entire operation of the cash transport and the places which the railway wagon travelled are being analysed in detail. The request for the special wagon, termed as high-capacity parcel van, from the bank to the Salem Railway Division had mentioned the wagon was needed for cash transfer. Subsequently, the wagon was transported from Coimbatore to Salem. The wagon had briefly halted at Erode, a possible spot that the robbers could have exploited. Seeing that the hole was near perfectly square, it should be handiwork of a deft hand.
Meanwhile, forensic experts had suggested use of a hand tool to cut the hole. Interestingly, near the Erode railway station there is a railway workshop with skilled technicians and fine tools. As it is generally considered that it is nearly impossible to make such a perfect cut in the running train and the purpose for which the wagon is being moved is also known in the railway circles, the investigators are checking if the hole was made before the cash was loaded into the wagon.
The next stop for the wagon was the Salem railway junction where the cash loading operation was carried out for nearly five hours starting 2.30 pm on Monday in broad daylight. While the bank and police officials do check the coach’s door and windows before loading the cash, it could not have occurred to them to check the roof, since such cases was never reported before, said a police source.
The train had left the Salem station at 9 pm and the stretch up to Virudhachalam was not electrified, indicating the possibility of the thieves sneaking out the cash during this phase. The stretch from Virudhachalam to Chennai is electrified and hence it’s nearly impossible for anyone to move out of the hole in the top. The train had also stopped for nearly 20 minutes at the Virudhachalam junction where an electric loco was fitted for the train.
Superintendent of Police of the Tamil Nadu government Railway Police Z Annie Vijaya said the possibility of the crime happening in motion is remote and it is strongly suspected that the theft was carried out when the train was stationery.
The train arrived at the Egmore station at 4.16 am on platform No. 1. The coach subsequently moved to the yard at the Chetpet station and was again brought to Egmore at 6 am. Only around 10.45 am the coach was opened in the presence of the Reserve Bank Assistant Manager Natarajan. “Plans might have been hatched before the train started and the culprits could have escaped through the hole after the train was brought to the Chetpet yard in Chennai,” a railway police official said.
Describing it as a novel case, Srilakshmi Prasad, ADGP, Government Railway Police, expressed hope that it would be solved soon. “We have identified some spots in Salem and Erode where the culprits could have operated,” said M Ramasubramanian, Inspector General of Police, Railway Police Force.