A gang of three robbers, who assaulted and robbed an elderly lady in Malad earlier this month, thought they had gotten away scot free. However, a phone call received by one of the accused set the Mumbai Crime Branch on their trail, leading to their arrest.
According to Crime Branch officers, the victim, a 72-year-old woman, was alone in her residence in Alka Vihar, Malad when the accused rang her doorbell posing as courier boys on May 7. As soon as she opened the door, the trio barged inside, assaulted her and bound and gagged her. They then proceeded to ransack the house and fled with cash and valuables worth Rs 1.87 lakh. An offence was subsequently registered in connection with the matter with the Malad police, and the case was transferred to the Crime Branch Unit XI for further investigation.
“We scanned Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera footage of the building and traced the movements of the accused all the way to Bhandup. It was in Bhandup that one of the three received a phone call, and this provided us with a crucial clue. We then turned to dump data analysis for further leads,” an officer who was part of the investigation said.
Dump data analysis is an extremely tedious and time consuming process where a dump of all cell phone numbers that have passed through a particular cellular tower is obtained and analysed for clues. The process can take days if one does not know what they are looking for.
In this case, the phone call received by the accused made the police's job easier. They obtained the concerned tower's data dump and looked for a number that was engaged in a call at a particular time, as seen in the time stamp of the CCTV footage. Using this, the investigating team isolated one suspect number and then compared it with the data dump of the cellular tower covering the victim's residence. Once they had a match, the police delved into this number's Call Detail Records (CDRs), found two more suspect numbers and started tracking all three. By this time, however, the three suspects had reached Uttar Pradesh.
“We sent a team to UP last Sunday and worked in coordination with the UP Special Task Force. Over the next one week, we kept tracking the suspects' movements but at the same time we had to maintain a discreet distance so as to not alert the accused. Finally, we intercepted the trio in Siddharth Nagar, UP on Friday, just as they were about to cross the Indo-Nepal border,” the officer said.
The trio were arrested and produced in a local court, where the Unit XI received their transit remand for two days. Even as they were on their way back to Mumbai, the trio were questioned and they revealed the name of a fourth accomplice, who was picked up from Bhandup. All four accused were produced in the Esplanade Court in Mumbai on Saturday, and remanded in the Crime Branch's custody till Tuesday.
The arrested accused have been identified as Afzal Hussain (23), Barkat Ali Salamat Ali (18), Sachin Mishra (27) and Abdul Manihar (65).
“Manihar runs a scrap business in Malad and knew when the victim would be alone at home. He tipped off the other three about an easy target and the trio visited the area two days before the crime to take stock of the security and best time to strike,” the officer said.