SINGAPORE: An Indonesian woman was commended on Friday (Dec 21) for her public-spiritedness after she helped police solve a series of theft cases while on a Jetstar flight in June.
Ms Kanya, who declined to reveal her full name, had been on a plane about to depart Singapore for Jakarta during the Hari Raya weekend when she observed two men behaving suspiciously.
She said one of the two men was seated next to her across the aisle.
About 15 minutes after the plane took off, she saw him stand up and reach for the overhead compartments.
"The lights were on. The flight attendants were walking back and forth serving or selling plane meals, so no one seemed suspicious.
"He looked through the first bag very confidently as if the bag was his own. I wasn't suspicious maybe because the items in the first backpack were just clothes," Ms Kanya said.
According to the 35-year-old, he was "well-dressed" with a t-shirt and trousers, and a pair of New Balance Sneakers. He also carried a Gucci travel purse, she said.
After the first bag, the man opened two other compartments including one above Ms Kanya and another compartment down the aisle, where he rummaged through a "silver and funky" backpack. This raised alarm bells for Ms Kanya, who is a frequent traveller.
"I just found it odd because when you're flying on a budget airline, you don't bring so much stuff. One of the bags also did not match his profile, in my opinion," she said.
The silver bag contained gadgets including a camera, an iPad and chargers, which the suspect studied oddly.
"I'm a frequent traveller so I know exactly where I put my stuff. He seemed confused when he took out the stuff.
"The way he took the items out made it seem like he was trying to identify them. I became suspicious because if that is your bag, you will know what you put in it."
Ms Kanya also saw the other man passing the first some cash.
Not wanting to alert them, she walked to the front of the plane and told the flight crew what she saw. A flight attendant told Ms Kanya that another passenger had just reported to the crew that his money was missing.
Right before the plane landed, the flight captain told passengers that nobody would be allowed to disembark because of "a situation on the plane", she said. At that point, the man next to her appeared "a bit nervous".
When they arrived in Jakarta one-and-a-half hours later, Ms Kanya, the victim and his wife were escorted out of the plane to report the incident.
The authorities then brought out two men, aged 49 and 55, to be interrogated. They were put on a plane back to Singapore.
Channel NewsAsia understands that the men were transiting in Singapore from Hong Kong to Jakarta.
A total of S$437 - in local and foreign currencies from Europe, Brazil and the United States - were found to have been stolen.
The men were each charged with five counts of theft with common intention, read with the Tokyo Convention Act which applies to offences committed in-flight.
They were sentenced on Oct 11 to 19 months' jail.
Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Goh Wee Khern said: "Ms Kanya's vigilance, which led to the arrests of the suspects, is commendable. The police thank Ms Kanya for her display of public-spiritedness. Such an act goes a long way to help deter crime on board aircraft."
There were 19 cases of theft on board an aircraft from January to September 2017. In the same period in 2018, there were 13 cases.
The authorities also encouraged airlines to alert passengers to such crimes during in-flight announcements.
They added that the public should remain vigilant and adopt prevention measures such as securing cash and valuables by locking hand-carry baggage, as well as keeping cash and valuables close if the hand-carry baggage cannot be locked.
Members of public should also be mindful of their surroundings and people around them, and alert the airline staff immediately if they notice anyone behaving suspiciously.