Twenty-seven bronze and brass icons of various deities were reported stolen in a break-in at the Government Museum at the Town Hall Complex in the City on Tuesday.

Unidentified culprits had cut open the steel frame of a window to gain entry into the Curator’s Office, on the rear of the museum, and stolen away the icons kept in a cupboard at the office.

Some of the icons dated back to 17th century and 16 of them were small ones. The stolen icons include ‘Devi padimangal’ and Perumal, museum officials said after an inventory check upon the arrival of the Curator of Pudukottai Government Museum, S.Govindaraj, holding additional charge of the museum, here this evening.

The locks of the cupboard, kept under seal only to be opened during official audits, were found broken. Some icons inside the cupboard were left behind in disarray. The culprits had also made an abortive bid to cut open a locked steel gate which leads to the museum’s gallery from the Curator’s Office.

According to sources, the main reserve collection of the museum was in a separate box, which was left untouched. Only the surplus items were kept in the cupboard. About 80 icons were in the cupboard, they said.

The break-in is believed to have taken place at around 2.00 a.m. The Fort Police Station and the Tiruchi Taluk Office are also located in the Town Hall complex, just a few metres away from the museum. The lone museum watchman, a contract staff, had reportedly heard some sounds at the rear of the museum. When he went around the building to investigate, he had reportedly sighted four persons scaling the wall at the backyard of the museum. But the museum staff was alerted by him only at the break of dawn. The staff rushed to the museum and informed the police.

The museum, established in 1983, was functioning at a rented premises at Cantonment in the City until 1997 when it was shifted to the Rani Mangammal Darbar Hall, a heritage building. It has a collection of about 2,000 items, including several ancient idols, bronzes and coins.

Collector T.Soundiah, Deputy Inspector General of Police, M. Ramasubramanian, Deputy Commissioners S.Rajendran (Law and Order) and Rupesh Kumar Meena (Crime and Traffic) visited the museum and conducted enquiries.