Rot within: Karnataka railway policeman strikes deal with burglar to steal from passengers to tide over gambling loss

ByBellie Thomas

Published Nov 08, 2023 | 11:35 AM Updated Nov 09, 2023 | 12:55 AM

Habitual Offender Sabanna (38) left & Head Constable Siddarama Reddy (37) Right

In yet another case of the fence eating the crop, a head constable attached to the Chikkaballapura Railway Police outpost was arrested along with his associate, a known burglar, for stealing valuables from train passengers.

Head constable Siddarama Reddy, 37, was arrested after a series of complaints of theft was reported to the police. The railway police had formed special patrol teams following the complaints from passengers, who reported thefts in the stretch between Chikkaballapura and Bengaluru.

Reddy’s involvement came to light after a 42-year-old woman passenger, Usha, travelling from Thrissur in Kerala to Bengaluru, complained to the Bayappanahalli police that she had lost her luggage from the train. She was sleeping when the luggage went missing, she told the police.

Preliminary investigation revealed that the policeman allegedly resorted to stealing valuables to cover up the losses incurred while gambling.

One of the police patrol team noticed a man frequently waiting on the platform of Chikkaballapura Junction at odd hours and picked him up for questions. During interrogation, the police identified him as Sabanna, 38, a habitual burglar since 2012. He has been facing cases of mobile phone thefts and burglary in the Yadgir district.

On further questioning, he named Reddy as an accomplice, the police said.

Also read: Karnataka cop, 3 others held with over 17 kg of ganja in Odisha

The modus operandi

Sabanna reportedly told interrogators that the police head constable would inform him of potential targets on trains.

“Head constable Siddarama Reddy used to wait in his vehicle in Bengaluru for Sabanna to commit the theft and join him. Once Sabanna stole the luggage, the men would equally share the booty among themselves,” a senior railway police officer told South First.

Explaining their modus operandi, the officer said that Reddy used to board the trains at Chikkaballapura in the small hours and identify passengers. Once the targets were identified, he would pass on the information — the coach and berth numbers — to Sabanna. The latter would then steal the luggage and take them to Reddy’s vehicle, where they checked the bags for valuables, which they shared.

If no valuables were found, they would discard the luggage and operate another day, the officer said.

Further information revealed that Reddy and Sabanna had known to each other since 2016 when the policeman was posted in Raichur. Sabanna had been keeping a low profile after his arrest in a house-break incident in 2011, and had since been targeting mobile phones, He had been arrested for a theft case in Wadi Junction railway station in 2022.

Reddy, a 2011-batch railway police constable sought a transfer to Bayappanahally from Raichur, and opted to work from the Chikkaballapura outpost, the railway police said. He was arrested on Friday, 3 November.

Also read: At least 7 Bengaluru cops arrested or suspended for theft, bribes in a week

Addicted to gambling

Investigators said both Reddy and Sabanna were in deep debt after losing money in gambling. They decided to steal valuables from passengers to tide over their financial crisis.

Based on Sabanna’s confession, the railway police said that they were committing the thefts since May this year.

“However, we are collecting the Call Detail Records (CDRs) of both Reddy and Sabanna and to find out more about their joint operations. We are also re-opening earlier theft cases to check if they were involved in them,” Superintendent of Police (Railways) SK Soumyalatha told South First.

She said Reddy has been suspended from service, pending a departmental enquiry. “Based on the outcomes of the enquiry, action will be initiated against Reddy. The accused head constable will also be given a fair hearing,” the officer said.

However, railway police sources said that Reddy could be terminated from service if his involvement in the crime was proved.

Valuables worth ₹20 lakh have been stolen from passengers in the four theft cases registered with the railway police.

In the first case, gold ornaments and other valuables weighing around 168 gm worth nearly ₹10 lakh were stolen from a passenger. In the second case, a mobile phone and ₹5 lakh worth of gold ornaments were stolen, and valuables worth ₹4 lakh were stolen in the third case.

In the fourth case, a passenger lost ₹27,000 in cash, the police said.

Soumyalatha added that the railway police were also collecting the details of theft cases registered at Bangarpet, Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna (KSR) SBC Railway station (Central Junction), Bengaluru rural, and Byappanahalli railway police stations.