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From: Ramesh Sarangapani (sarangap_at_me.udel.edu)
Date: Sat Feb 08 1997 - 06:48:10 PST
>From the Hindu (Feb. 8) The city police today arrested the elusive temple burglar and recovered from him the entire jewellery stolen from the Sri Vedanta Desikar temple, Mylapore, and a portion of the ornaments lifted from four other temples. The culprit, Vardharaji Sathyamurthy (33) of Jayapuram, had been operating for the past six years and had struck at five temples. His first operation was at Andal temple, Srirangam (1991) followed by Rajagoplaswamy temple, Mannargudi (1992), Eerikatha Ramar temple, Maduranthagam, Sarangapani temple, Kumbakonam (1995) and the recent case. The lure for a lavish lifestyle had made him to take to temple burglary. After some training in a film institute and a short stint in the tinsel world, he formed a musical and drama troupe which was sponsored with the money got after disposing of the stolen jewellery. He even bought a few acres of land and also constructed a Mariamman and Perumal temple in his village. He contested for the local Panchayat President post and lost narrowly. HE had filed a case in this connection. Describing the modus operandi, the Director General of Police Mr. K. K. Rajasekaran Nair told mediapersons that the small-time actor would survey the temple at least 15 times before embarking on his mission. The police picked up Sathyamurthy on information that he had a lavish lifestyle and that he was in possession of some valuable jewels. On interrogation, he confessed to the crimes. The culprit who had been operating for the past five years was arrested within 20 days of the Mylapore temple theft. He had sold some of the diamonds in Mumbai and the jewels in different parts of the State. While fingerprints had been obtained in the earlier cases, in the Mylapore case there were no ``foreign prints''. The needle of suspicion pointed to one person as police investigation established that all the cases of temple theft had occurred in the same pattern. Moreover, a portrait drawn of the suspected accused after the Kumbakonam temple burglary based on the information given by those who had seen him, was identified by the priests in all the five temples as the culprit. When Sathyamurthy was picked up he confessed to his involvement in the crime, leading to the recovery of the jewellery. It was stated that Sathyamurthy had lost faith in Lord Shiva as his drama troupe did not take off; he then became an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. He had even decorated some of the stolen jewels on the Perumal idol in his house. He has named his two sons as Parthasarathy and Vishnuvaradan. The City Police Commissioner, Mr. V. K. Rajagopalan, said that DCP (Adyar) Mr.A.M.S. Gunaseelan and Mylapore ACP (Crime) Mr. Palani were instrumental in detecting the case.