A three-year-old girl was strangled to death in a ritual sacrifice at Yeyyadi on Thursday evening.

Priyanka, daughter of Anjali Devi and Firan Kumar Jha of Bihar, was allegedly sacrificed by Kamalaksha Purusha, 74, who, along with a woman, dumped the body in a rivulet at Yeyyadi. The girl's family lives in a rented house, just a few metres away from Kamalaksha Purusha, who lives with one Chandrakala.

Mr. Jha, who works in an electronics shop at Mangalore, returned home around 7 p.m. on Thursday and asked his wife about Priyanka. She informed him that Chandrakala had taken her along in the afternoon, Mr. Jha's employer, Vivek G.D. said. When they asked Chandrakala, she said she had sent Priyanka home. Then they lodged a complaint with the Mangalore East police. Sub-Inspector Chikkaswamy went to the house of the accused around 11 p.m., but could not find the girl.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) R. Ramesh said it was only in the morning when the police summoned Kamalaksha Purusha and Chandrakala to the station and questioned them separately that Chandrakala admitted to the crime. The two then showed the police the place where the body was dumped.

Mr. Ramesh said the accused had kept the body in the backyard when the police visited their house on Thursday night. After the police left, they dumped it in the rivulet, covering it with twigs.

The police suspect that Kamalaksha's elder brother, in whose house Mr. Jha lives, played a role in the death. Mr. Ramesh said Chandrakala lured Priyanka, but it was Kamalaksha who strangled her in their house. Kamalaksha and his brother were tantric worshippers, he said, and it was a case of “human sacrifice.”

Residents of the area said Kamalaksha, who belongs to the Jogi community, managed a temple.

House ransacked

Angry residents ransacked Kamalaksha's house. But Mr. Ramesh played it down, saying that the damage to the crime scene was not relevant as the body was recovered.

A large number of people gathered at Mr. Jha's house to see the body of the child.

Mr. Vivek said Mr. Jha had been living in the house for seven years. He brought his family here just over two months ago.

His neighbours had warned him that “something was wrong” with Kamalaksha and Chandrakala and advised him not to allow his child to mingle with them. Mr. Jha also asked his wife to keep Priyanka away from Chandrakala.