Guard shoots SBI cashier and says: one more body upstairs

Calcutta, Dec. 7: A 57-year-old State Bank of India security guard shot dead a colleague and then a cashier in front of customers this afternoon, apparently because he could not take their slights and taunts any more.

The killings by the "mild-mannered" Sunil Kumar Sarkar, posted at the SBI's Bhowanipore branch on Ramesh Mitra Road since 1995, sent most of the 100-odd people present running helter-skelter.

Having killed fellow guard Radhakrishna Mondal on the third floor, Sunil, a former serviceman, had walked down to the ground floor and shot cashier Manab Bose.

Branch manager Chhabi Sarkar stepped out of his cabin hearing the shots and saw Sunil walk away from Bose's blood-splattered counter and prepare to reload the gun. When the manager, also a retired army man, walked up to Sunil and grabbed his double-barrelled gun, the 5'8", well-built guard did not resist.

"I did what I thought was the right thing," Sarkar said. "As I grabbed him, people around me started screaming, 'This is the man who gunned down our accountant'."

Sunil remained calm as he was led to Sarkar's room. He revealed there was another "body lying on the third floor".

Mondal, 45, a resident of Madanpur near Kalyani in Nadia, lay on a bed meant for bank guards to rest. He had gone up to the third floor for lunch.

The police said Sunil, who lives in Nababganj at Ichhapore, North 24-Parganas, has a daughter studying in Calcutta University and a son pursuing a commerce degree at a Calcutta college.

Actress Koneenica Banerjee, who has an account at the branch, said she remembered the elderly guard handing her slips to deposit money.

"I know him very well…. I can almost imagine him in front of me. Whenever I went to the bank, he and the other guard helped me fill in slips and draft forms. He's a very helpful man," she said.

"Amakey 'didi, didi' bolto (they would address me as 'didi'). My entire family has accounts in this branch."

Koneenica's father had been to the bank barely 15 minutes before the shooting.

The police said Sunil told them he knew the consequences of his action. "I may be hanged for this but I couldn't take it any more," an officer quoted Sunil as saying.

He said Sunil did not elaborate. The guard apparently told the police: "There are a lot of reasons; I can't tell you all of that right now."

Investigations suggest Sunil had been the standing victim of colleagues' pranks, but the murder motive is yet to be confirmed.

The chief general manager of State Bank's Bengal circle, Sunil Srivastav, said Sunil was a bank employee like all other SBI guards. The bank only recruits ex-servicemen as guards and someone of Sunil's age would have earned around Rs 27,000 a month.

A police officer said Sunil was in charge of working out the roster for the four guards at the branch who worked in shifts of two. "Some of his colleagues used to ignore his orders or go on leave without telling him," the officer said.

Bose was a leader of the bank employees' union and, a police officer said, Sunil had taken his problems to him but to no avail.

"Colleagues would sometimes taunt him about his age, asking him 'how much longer can you work'," an officer said.

At Ichhapore, Sunil was known as a friendly neighbour. He had organised a residents' team to guard the locality at night and "would be with us once a week", a neighbour said.

Among his "friends" was colleague Mondal, said Mondal's brother-in-law, who arrived in Calcutta today. Mondal's daughter is in her first year of college and his son is a Class VI student.

The police said Mondal was scribbling something when he was shot but wouldn't say what the note contained.

Bose lived in Paschim Putiary near Tollygunge, Calcutta. His son, a first-year student at a north Bengal engineering college, was at home when TV flashed the news. He immediately phoned his father but the call went unanswered.

The bank branch will resume normal service on Monday, SBI said. Arrangements have been made for its customers to conduct transactions from SBI Kalighat till then.

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