Thiruvananthapuram: In August 2017, three car theft cases were reported from different areas in the capital city limits. The stolen vehicles were identified to be of a particular brand - Maruti Suzuki Swift. All of them were parked on the roadside with their steering wheel locked.
After multiple cases of similar thefts were reported from the district, the Shadow wing of the Thiruvananthapuram City police was entrusted with the probe. A state-wide investigation revealed that 13 vehicles of the same brand were allegedly stolen from the Thrissur Rural police limits as well.
After the sleuths identified a striking similarity in the cases of thefts, the probe was extended to Madurai and Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu on the basis of certain information they have obtained. Soon, they were on the trail of an inter-state racket based in Tamil Nadu that was involved in car thefts across the country.
The robbers were found to roam in a high-end BMW sedan to identify vehicles which they targeted later. They made away with the cars after cracking their security systems with sophisticated lock picking tools.
The initial investigation was centred on the vehicle thefts reported from Vanchiyoor, Vizhinjam, and Kazhakuttom on the outskirts of the capital city. The investigators painstakingly verified thousands of calls that had gone through the closest mobile towers at the location of the crime and finally zeroed in on about hundred suspicious numbers.
When they pored over the shortlisted calls, it was found that calls from one of those numbers had been registered in two towers at Kazhakuttom and Vizhinjam. The cops gathered details of the number and traced the address of the holder to Tiruchirappalli. It was also discovered that one of the stolen cars had passed through the toll plaza at Paliyekkara in Thrissur.
Over to Tamil Nadu
The shadow police team went to Tiruchirappalli and handed over the suspect’s address given by the mobile service provider to their counterparts there. The cops were stunned to learn that the person they were looking for was a notorious auto-lifter called Parameswaran. The Tamil Nadu police handed over all his criminal records to the shadow squad.
The investigators went to Madurai in search of Parameswaran only to find his vacant house. When all efforts to track him down proved futile, the Tamil Nadu police provided a vital information to them about one Mubarak, one of his close friends.
With the help of the local police, the shadow sleuths took Mubarak into custody and managed to get hold of Parameswaran’s new mobile number. Based on the information extracted from Mubarak, the squad went to Madurai to nab the gang leader. He was living in a posh, sprawling bungalow enclosed by huge compound walls.
The nine-member shadow squad, led by control room assistant commissioner Suresh, jumped over the wall into the compound and surrounded the building. After quieting down the ferocious guard dogs, they broke open the entrance door and stormed the house. Parameswaran was waiting for them in the living room holding a machete! He surrendered only after the cops pulled out guns and intimidated him.
The police raided the house and recovered over fifty sim cards and electronic devices used to break car security systems. By the time the news of his detention reached his accomplices, the police jeep carrying him had crossed the Kerala border.
Parameswaran was involved in over seventy vehicle theft cases in various parts of Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, it is his wife, a well-known lawyer in Madurai, who argues cases for him.
Explaining the gang’s modus operandi, the police said the accused only targeted cars parked in deserted areas along the highway. They would turn off the alarm using a specially designed devise before removing the side windows of the vehicle. They would reprogram the car’s ignition system and pair it with a duplicate key. The gang would make away with the vehicle after breaking the steering lock. The entire operation would take less than 20 minutes. Parameswaran was not ready to share these techniques with other members of the gang. Also, he never recruited people who had a criminal record, the police said.
The stolen vehicles were mainly sold in cities across Tamil Nadu such as Chennai, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Vellore, and Coimbatore. During interrogation, he confessed to have stolen seven cars from Thiruvananthapuram, 14 from Thrissur and one each from Palakkad and Malappuram.
He targeted only Maruti Swift models because of the huge demand for that particular model in Tamil Nadu’s used car market. Parameswaran is currently serving out a jail term in Andhra in connection with a theft case.
Thirty-four officers, including two women, are part of the shadow police wing of the Thiruvananthapuram City police. Recently, 16 investigators attached to the team were conferred with the Badge of Honour by the state police chief in recognition of their diligence in solving four seemingly clueless cases last year. According to ADGP Manoj Abraham, the shadow police wing of the Thiruvananthapuram City Police is one of the best detective squads in the entire state.