Two months after the theft of three crowns from the temple of Sri Govinda Raja Swamy in Andhra Pradesh's Tirupati town, the police finally saw progress in the case with the arrest of one accused in Mumbai on Monday. The three crowns which were stolen, weighed approximately 1,351 gm and were valued at around Rs 50 lakh.
The accused, identified as Akash Pratap, was taken into custody at Dadar police station in Mumbai. The police said that he was a native of Nanded district in Maharashtra and confessed to the crime.
According to media reports, he pledged the stolen crowns to a local jeweller in his hometown, who has also been taken into custody. The accused was shifted to Tirupati for further investigation even as the police determined the location of the crowns. Investigation officials are also determining if Akash Pratap had help from an insider, in carrying out the theft.
The heist came to light when temple staff noticed that the crowns had gone missing ahead of the commencement of a weekly temple procession. The temple was closed at 5 pm for devotees. When it was reopened at 5:45 pm, one of the priests found that the crowns were missing.
Govindaraja Swamy Temple is a 12th century temple that was built by Saint Ramanujacharya, and is one of the earliest structures in Tirupati. It is also one of the biggest temple complexes in Chittoor district.
The Tirupati Urban police had formed nine teams to crack the case. Officials had scanned CCTV footage of the temple and surrounding areas. Some temple employees, including the priests who were on duty, were questioned.
At the time, the top brass of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) also initiated disciplinary action and suspended two priests attached to the sub-temple, from where the crowns disappeared, on grounds of negligence.
The matter had also reached Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who took serious note of the theft and directed the police to take immediate steps to apprehend the culprits.