GEORGE TOWN, MALAYSIA, August 24, 2013 (The Star): Thieves broke into the 180-year-old Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Queen Street here and escaped with 36 precious stones, gold and silver items. At least 10 statues of deities placed at five platforms (peedam) inside the temple were damaged.
The suspects dug up three statues before escaping with the loot. The precious stones and valuables had been placed underneath the statues and cemented to the floor when the temple was built. The loss was estimated at US$13,700. An undisclosed amount of money belonging to the temple's priest and clerk, kept in two drawers, was also reported missing.
The thieves were believed to have come in via the temple's backdoor fronting Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. A temple priest, who discovered the damage, lodged a police report at about 7am yesterday. An initial police probe found that there were no signs of a break-in, except for damaged gate bolts behind the temple.
M. Ramachandran, the executive director of Penang Hindu Endowment Board that manages the temple, said "This is an unfortunate incident. The thieves could have spent some time in the temple before they carted away the valuables. The statues were cemented to the floor and the precious stones were kept underneath. They had to dig up the statues to get to the valuables. However, the main Mariamman statue was left untouched as it is kept in a locked room," he said.
Ramachandran advised the public not to be overly alarmed over the incident. "Everything will be back to normal tomorrow (today). We will offer blessing prayers once the police have completed their probe and put things right as soon as possible," he said.