ANANTAPUR: Police arrested five persons of a gang of treasure hunters for the murders of three aged persons at a Shiva temple on Korthikota hill four months ago under the Tanakal police station limits in the district on Tuesday. Another person related to the gang is absconding.
A police official said the gang believed that there were precious stones hidden in the Shiva lingam and that it was protected by snakes. They used blood to ostensibly prevent the snake snakes from entering the temple when they dug up the place.
Kadiri Rural circle inspector Thammisetty Madhu and his team said they had travelled 7,000 kilometres since the murders took place on July 14 and interrogated 300 suspects including those belonging to 30 treasure hunting gangs from AP, Telangana state, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala before they made the arrests.
The victims were S. Shivarami Reddy, 66, of Kondakinda Mekalavaripalle in Tamballapalli in Chittoor district, a retired employee who had spent his own money to maintain the temple and was serving as the priest, devotees Vankadara Satyalakshmamma, 70, of Andrahalli in Bengaluru, and Kadapala Kamalamma, 75, of Uppuravandlapalli in Tanakal mandal in Anantapur district. Their blood was smeared on a snake pit.
The culprits killed the three at the temple and doused their blood at the snake pit. The gang then tried to remove the Shiva lingam which they believed contained precious stones.
Police registered a case based on a complaint by Shivarami Reddy’s wife Prabhavati. The murders were a challenge for the police because there was little by way of evidence.
“Our teams covered more than 7,000 kilometres and questioned 300 persons who were involved in treasure-hunting and locally from Tamballapalle after we got reports that Shivarami Reddy had lent money to locals,” superintendent of police Satya Esubabu said. They also investigated in nearby villages surrounding the temple.
The police finally zeroed in upon the five-member gang of treasure hunters for involvement in the triple murder. Mr Esubabu said that the accused Srikanth Naik, Hanumantha Naik, C. Ganesh of Puttaparthi, Musalikunta Srinivasulu and Vasudeva Reddy, a real estate trader of Puttaparthi were friends. All these five have been arrested. Their associate, Subramanyam, is absconding.
Srinivasulu told his friends about precious stones hidden in the Korthikota temple Shiva lingam, and about his guru Subramanyam Naidu’s claims about diamonds being there.
Hanumantha Naik, Srikanth Naik and Ganesh conducted a recce of the temple on March 17 and firmed up their plan the next day.
They collected the required material, including a knife along with the blood of an animal. The trio attacked the temple and killed Shivarami Reddy and two women by stabbing and hitting them with hammers on July 14. Their bodies were found the next day.Soon after killing the trio, they sprinkled blood in the temple surroundings to prevent snakes from coming there. They tried to break the Shiva lingam but fled in the dark after failing to do so, Mr Easbabu said.