18 kg of silver articles, 18 grams of gold and two vehicles recovered

The police have arrested seven persons allegedly involved in five thefts in different places of worship, including a Jain Basadi (not the one in Moodbidri), in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. They have recovered 18 kg of silver articles, 18 grams of gold and two vehicles from the suspects.

The police gave the names of the arrested as Timmaiah (55) of Chickmagalur, Somanath (45) of Arasikere, Jayaraj Swamy (45) and Ganga (40) from Hassan, Netra (38) from Puttur, Babu (55) from Uppinangady and Rajendra (65). Five of the suspects have theft cases against them in several police stations in the State.

Superintendent of Police Abhishek Goyal said Babu was seen in the vicinity of temples of the region many times in the past six months. He recced temples and passed on information to Thimmaiah and Somanath. The duo also faces several cases of theft, Mr. Goyal said. The three jointly worked out the details of the operation. Thimmaiah and Somanath used to lift idols, while Jayaraj Swamy, the fourth suspect, waited for them in the car outside. Babu and Rajendra, the fifth suspect, used to keep a vigil outside the temple, Mr. Goyal said. When they got a hint of their vehicles being on the police radar, they used stolen vehicles for their operation. Mr. Goyal told reporters that Jayaraj Swamy, who also works as priest, got the stolen articles converted into silver blocks with the help of jewellers in Shimoga. The articles were recovered from the houses of the suspects in Shimoga, Hassan and Kadur. Mr. Goyal said the gang used Netra, the only woman in the gang, to hoodwink police to believe that they were tourists.

The five suspects were caught when they tried to escape from police checking in Punjalkatte on July 12. The police found rods, chilli powder and some sharp weapons in the car. Questioning them led the police to Babu and Rajendra.

Mr. Goyal said police have been able to recover all the articles that had been stolen from a Bhajan Mandir and a temple in Bantwal, Ananteshwara temple in Bellamanja and at a Jain Basadi in Bangadi in Beltangady. “Six idols in the Basadi were stolen assuming they were of silver. but they were an alloy of five metals. They had, however, not disposed it off.” Mr. Goyal said the accused did not have any contacts with those dealing in antiques. The police are yet to find persons involved in the theft that had taken place at two other Basadis.

Security measures

Superintendent of Police Abhishek Goyal on Friday emphasised the need to step up security at temples to guard precious and antique jewellery in temples.

Mr. Goyal said temple administrators should install close circuit cameras, anti-burglary alarms and other security systems apart from posting security guards. “This will at least help us in tracing the accused,” Mr. Goyal said, alluding to the arrests made in the idols heist in Moodbidri on July 5.