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September 20, 2010

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Unmasked: Clue that led to jewel raid gang

THREE suspects detained in connection with an armed robbery at a jewelry store in a Shanghai hypermarket earlier this month arrived in the city yesterday under escort.

The Shanghai Public Security Bureau said that although the raiders wore masks and took only minutes to complete the robbery, they left plenty of clues at the Jiujia Jewels at the E-Mart on Lianhua Road S. in Minhang District.

One of the suspects, surnamed Zhang, left a home-made mask in the greenery behind the E-Mart while escaping, which helped officers find the 42-year-old first, police said. A gun that witnesses saw one of the suspects carrying, and was later found to be a toy, was also found in the greenery by police.

"They tried to be professional, but the details were full of loopholes," said officer Xu Xiaoming. "Most of their behavior was just an imitation of movies and TV serials."

Police were also surprised to find that the three had made their escape, not in a fast car, but by bicycle.

The three were flown to the city yesterday by plane from Guiyang City in southwest China's Guizhou Province.

The robbery happened at about 8:30pm on September 8, with one of the three masked robbers smashing counters with a hammer, another grabbing gold necklaces and rings and the other threatening sales staff with the toy gun. The three made off with more than 100,000 yuan (US$14,874) in gold jewelry in just three minutes. Before they left, they threw several home-made smoke grenades in the hypermarket to cover their getaway.

"From the frequency of the hammering, we reckoned that one of the suspects was aged between 20 and 40," said officer Jiang Weiliang after checking the surveillance cameras that recorded the robbery.

The suspect left blood at the scene after he cut himself while hammering the counters.

But police said it was the mask left in the greenery outside the E-Mart that eventually led them to the suspects.

"We scanned and analyzed the mask and the results linked it to a robbery last year in Guizhou which hadn't been solved," Jiang said. The police contacted the victim of that robbery, a taxi driver, who told them the suspect spoke in a dialect peculiar to the Qijiang area of Chongqing Municipality.

That led police to Zhang in Qijiang County, although they didn't reveal any further details.

"When we called him, he knew that it was the end," said officer Ye Feng. "He said he'd been struggling after the robbery and couldn't sleep."

Zhang surrendered last Tuesday and turned in the other two. The second suspect, surnamed Wang, was caught the same day in Chongqing. The third, also surnamed Zhang, was detained the next day in Zunyi City, Guizhou.


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