On the trail of a wallet thief

LIAM HYSLOP
Last updated 12:00 21/06/2014
Director and co-owner of the Curry House, Virat Vij
SLEUTH: Director and co-owner of the Curry House, Virat Vij, who used his detective skills to catch a thief.

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Curry House co-owner Virat Vij played the role of detective to catch a thief who stole his brother's wallet containing more than $1500.

Although Vij who is also NMIT's international marketing manager, led a citizens' investigation, he said he would never have found the culprit without the co-operation of the hospitality industry.

The story started on June 12 when Curry House manager Sahiljot Singh went across Bridge St to the Rattle and Hum Bar to get change from the pokie machines.

There he was confronted by a man asking him for change to play the pokies, but Singh ignored him.

That same man later went to the Curry House to buy a curry and saw Vij's brother Krishan's wallet on a table, Vij said.

Singh saw him take the wallet but did not realise it was Krishan's.

The man left without collecting his curry but did have more than $1500 in his pocket, which Vij said Krishan had been carrying after selling cooking equipment.

It was not until the next day they realised the wallet was missing.

But the restaurant's security cameras were not working so they could not check where it had gone.

That was when Vij had a hunch.

"He paid for his food but he never came back for it, which didn't make sense," Vij said.

Having heard the story from his manager about the earlier confrontation with the man in the Rattle and Hum, he thought this must be the culprit.

With the help of the Rattle and Hum's staff, he checked the security footage and verified the same man who had confronted Singh had indeed gone to the Curry House.

Several people at the Rattle and Hum identified the culprit as one of the regulars.

Later on the Friday a Rattle and Hum security guard called Vij to tell him he had spotted the man entering Odyssey Bar.

Nervous but determined, Vij entered the bar and identified the man.

"He looks at me and I look exactly like my brother so he gets suspicious," Vij said.

The man quickly drank one of three beers he was carrying and tried to leave, but as he did Vij confronted him and threatened to go to the police.

The man admitted he had stolen the money but pleaded with Vij not to go to the police as he had the money in his car.

But this was a lie so Vij called the police and the man was arrested on other outstanding warrants.

A police search of his home recovered $150 and Krishan's credit cards, but the rest of the money was not there.

Vij said the money was not important, although it had meant a lot to his 74-year-old father visiting from India.

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"He was crying for six hours because that kind of money he makes in a year.

"For him the shock was unbelievable, it was too much, so to calm him down was the more important thing."

The way the local bars and restaurants collaborated to help catch the thief was remarkable, Vij said.

"We caught him without police help, within one day, just working off a hunch.

"People need to see that this could be done, it's not that crazy."

Police say they are continuing to look into the case.

- Nelson

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