Within an hour’s time, a three-member gang broke into five shops in a suburban shopping hub -- Linking Road and SV Road in Santacruz -- and escaped with goods and cash worth Rs 17 lakh.
5.15 am: Damak
The gang breaks into Damak, an international chain of fashion accessories and jewellery on Linking Road in Santacruz. Preeti Patel, the store manager said that it was found that the shutters were forcefully lifted without breaking the lock.
“This shows the amount of strength and technique involved in the act. The safe was also broken. However, we avoid keeping cash in the store. There was only Rs 1,500, which was kept in an envelope, and was missed by the robbers. Our showroom is under renovation, so the CCTV is yet to be reinstalled,” said Patel.
5.30 am: Aishwarya Saree shop
The trio then entered Aishwarya saree store in Santacruz and stole sarees worth Rs 10-15 lakh
After being disappointed with their first attempt, the robbers entered Aishwarya, a plush Saree shop on Linking Road by cutting two security shutters.
“The theft was discovered around 10 am, when we came to the shop and found that it was already open. The interiors were in a complete mess,” informed Paresh Gada, owner of the store. Gada added that owing to a malfunctioning CCTV, they were not able to get the surveillance tapes.
“We are in the process of getting an estimate of the total loss, as the police have asked us not to touch anything till the shop is examined by fingerprint experts. But it seems that sarees worth Rs 10-15 lakh are missing from the shop,” he added.
This made it the biggest loot the trio could manage that morning.
5.43 am: Hari Om chemist
The trio exited with cash and a gold chain worth Rs 94,000 from Hari Om medical store.
As seen on CCTV footage (left), the gang proceeded towards Hari Om chemist, which is a few blocks away from Aishwarya store, towards Podar school.
Three men dressed in grey safaris, parked a truck outside Hari Om chemist. They entered the shop nonchalantly and made a beeline for the cash counter, containing cash and a gold chain worth Rs 94,000.
“It was pretty late by the time I closed my shop on Sunday. So, I decided to remove my gold chain -- worth Rs 75,000 -- and keep it in the shop to ensure it was safe. Little did I know that it was destined to be robbed that night,” said Narayan Jhala, owner of the chemist shop.
6.15 am: Shiva General Store
The thieves managed to find Rs 76,000 in the cash counter at Shiva General Store. After seeing success with two shops, the burglars decided to target another medical and general store, Shiva, a few shops away from Hari Om. The CCTV footage sheds a light on a green-coloured truck (extreme left)
pulling outside on the footpath.
The CCTV footage could capture the ease of the act as three men casually break open the shutter and the iron grills. While, one of them stood guard under the pretext of cleaning the porch, the other two walked in the shop with a torch and what appears to be a weapon of sorts and targeted the cash counter again.
“As it was the weekend, the counter had about Rs 76,000 in cash, which could not be deposited in the bank. The thieves probably knew about this, as we normally never keep so much money in the shop,” said Alpesh Shah, manager.
6.25 am: RR Wines
The last stop for the gang was RR Wines was SV Road, as they were possibly assured of finding a rich haul since it was a day after Gatari celebrations -- a day when alcohol is consumed in bulk before the onset of Shravan, a period of abstinence.
Vinod Vithanarjun, who runs the wine shop, informed that the robbers could find only Rs 11,500, so they ended up picking bottles of some of the finest imported and Indian liquor.
“They picked sixty two bottles, including premium scotch,” said Vithanarjun.
MiD DAY spoke to an eyewitness (name withheld to protect identity), who spotted the light green coloured truck and said that its occupants were acting in a suspicious manner.
“I make refreshments for the early risers and start my business quite early. I was surprised to see a shop open at such an odd hour. As I went about my business, not realising that it was a theft in progress, I made a mental note of the vehicle’s details, and passed it on to the police” he said
In a similar incident that MiD DAY had reported on December 14, 2012, four armed bikers had managed to break into seven shops between Bandra and Andheri within a span of two hours, and escaped with cash and goods worth Rs 51 lakh. Some of the shops that were looted then included Reliance Eye Care and Brijwasi sweets shop that are located opposite the RR Wines on S V Road Milan Junction, which was the target of the recent incident.
Senior Inspector Arun Chavan of Santacruz police station informed that the series of robberies were committed by a single gang, within a span of little over an hour.
“We have initiated our investigation on the basis of the CCTV footage and have also acquired other leads, which will help us solve the case and nab the culprits. We are currently in the process of collecting other evidence and estimate the total loss,” said Chavan.