Informing about the operation, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) North West Jitendra Meena on Sunday said,
The 55-year-old Covid patient of Chotta Hatta Gaon in the Rimbick-Lodhoma constituency of Darjeeling, who had been absconding ever since he gave health workers the slip on 2 August, was finally caught from a dense forest below 3rd Mile at Rangeroong in Darjeeling today.
The man, who is a convict, had fled while he was being taken to the Tribeni Covid Hospital in Kalimpong in an ambulance.
A team of personnel from the police, forest department, health department and even locals were continuously searching for him all these days, it is learnt.
“He was apprehended today with the help of locals and health officials. The main problem in the search operation was the difficult terrain and the weather condition. We enquired among the locals and used sniffer dogs, and also counterinsurgency teams to find him,” Darjeeling DSP Rahul Pandey said.
It is learnt that the Darjeeling Police had taken help from the Sashastra Seema Bal’s (SSB) dog squad in the search today. “The SSB’s 8th Battalion at Khaprail near Siliguri sent the tracker dog, Leda, along with its handlers, to help the search operation. Leda was inducted into the squad very recently after it completed training,” an SSB official said.
The 55-year-old was spotted near the 3rd Mile area on a couple of occasions before he was finally nabbed today, but each time people saw him and attempted to get him, he ran back into the forest, sources said.
Asked about the man’s health, Mr Pandey said, “He looks fine, but we are not the qualified authority to say anything on that, as the health department will conduct tests and find out. We will decide on what needs to be done after the test results are out.”
On August 2, the man, who, sources said, was out on parole, said he wanted to answer nature’s call and got down from the ambulance and fled away into the dense jungle below 3rd Mile near Jorebunglow.
Sources said he was sentenced to life in prison some years ago for killing his wife and was in the Jalpaiguri correctional home. According to sources, a driver passing by 3rd Mile area spotted him around 10:30 today morning.
“When the driver called him, he ran inside the forest, while the driver then informed the locals and the police about the sighting,” sources said.
Locals said that a team of the police and locals followed him and coaxed him to come out of hiding near Rungdung Khola, around 8 km away from 3rd Mile, but he did not agree and instead hurled stones at them.
Many are now wondering as to how a Covid-positive person could have survived for so long in a dense forest without proper food, water and clothing, with the hills also experiencing torrential rainfall.