Jilted criminal escaped police custody to win back girlfriend

The story behind the daring escape of a history sheeter from a police van in Kherwadi has enough indication of love, loss, angst and other Bollywood paraphernalia to inspire a movie script. Three days into their hunt for Abhay Raj Saroj — who slipped away from police custody on Monday — cops have learnt that the 25-year-old, who is wanted in more than 30 cases of robbery, fled from the cops not just to evade the long arm of the law, but to salvage his failing romance with his long-time girlfriend.

The great escape: 1) Taking advantage of the distracted cops in the rear end of the police van, Abhay easily pushed out the grill attached to the van’s window 
2) He then jumped out through the window.
3) Cops seated next to the van’s driver tried to get out of the van, but the door was jammed for a few minutes.
4) The other cops learnt of the escape later. Illustration/Amit Bandre

25-year-old Abhay, who is a resident of Goregaon, has been in love with his girlfriend since he was a tot in standard V. The two were inseparable till Abhay and his family members moved to Mira Road. Gradually, Abhay was sucked into the world of crime, and cases against him started piling up in police stations across the city. At present, he has more than 30 cases pending against him on a variety of charges, including house break-ins, robberies and chain snatching. He has been arrested and released on bail many times by the police, and till before his escape on Monday, was in the Arthur Road Jail under judicial custody.

Heartbroken: Cops revealed that Abhay Raj Saroj’s girlfriend would meet him every time he was taken to court; when she failed to show up, Abhay escaped from the police van. pic/Zuber Ansari

Cops said that almost a month ago, after one of his routine appearances at the Andheri metropolitan magistrate court, Abhay had been accosted by his girlfriend, and the two were involved in a heated altercation, as the woman had informed him that she would soon be tying the knot with another man. On Monday, Abhay was escorted to the court again for another hearing, but this time his girlfriend, who has been a regular on their other ‘court dates’, failed to show up. Upset and afraid that he would lose the object of his affections, Abhay threw caution to the wind, and fled from police custody. Senior Police Inspector Avdhoot Chavan of Kherwadi police station said, “We have registered a case against the accused and the hunt is on to trace him.”

Easy escape
Investigations into the escape have revealed that the police team, which was escorting Abhay from Arthur Road jail to the Andheri court, had 38 other accused persons under its watch. At court, 15 more accused persons were added to the police van, leaving the police team — comprising four constables and one driver — grossly outnumbered by the 53 accused in the van. Two constables were seated next to the driver, while others occupied seats at the rear end of the van. Abhay was seated behind the two constables who were seated next to the driver.

At 7.45 pm, the police van was stuck in traffic on the busy Western Express Highway. All Abhay had to do was push the window grill outward, slip out, and make a dash for cover in Santacruz. There was commotion in the jeep as the two constables seated near Abhay realised that he had wriggled out. They tried desperately to open the door and scramble after him, but the poorly maintained van’s door refused to budge for a good few minutes. Meanwhile, the two constables who were seated at the rear end of the van were in the midst of an animated conversation, and continued to be absorbed in it, oblivious to the fracas.

Hunt on
Local policemen, Crime Branch officers as well as a special squad are on the hunt for heartbroken Abhay, but have failed to locate him, though days have passed since the escape. Cops are also worried that Abhay may attempt to kill his estranged girlfriend or her fiancé, and have offered them police protection. A departmental inquiry will be initiated to determine how the man wriggled out of custody even when four cops were inside the van. 

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