Police on the lookout for ‘treasure hunters’ after triple murder in Andhra’s Anantapur district

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Folklore serves as the map as they dig around dilapidated temples to find brass vessels laden with jewellery — but cops aren’t amused by such adventures.

After the gruesome murder of three elderly people, including two women, inside a village temple in Kadiri mandal of Anantapur district three weeks ago, the police in the western mandals of Chittoor have stepped up vigil against such “treasure hunters.”

Police reject theory

The triple-murder case is yet to be solved, but it is widely viewed as the handiwork of “treasure hunters” who wanted to appease spirits to guide them to the hidden gold. The theory, however, has been rejected by the police.

In a span of a few days, police in Kalakada in Chittoor district have taken 13 persons into custody in two cases of “treasure hunting”, while search is on for four other absconders. Looking for hidden treasures is a bailable offence, but following the triple murder police are now seeking to tackle the menace with non-bailable sections.

Acting on a tip-off, police sub-inspector (Kalakada) B. Ravi Prakash Reddy and his team rushed to an old Siva temple in the forests abutting Kona panchayat on Tuesday midnight.

A six-member gang was nabbed when they were busy uprooting some stone blocks near the temple zone. According to folklore, the temple with a history of over 300 years was the favourite haunt of a local king and his concubine.

The king bestowed her with dominion over a vast stretch of land, which included the surrounding villages. In his last days, when he was suffering from a mysterious disease, the king came to the temple and settled with his concubine. After his death, the woman hid the jewels and valuables in safe spots in the temple zone before leaving.

Because of this legend, the temple has remained a target for “treasure hunters” over several decades. Most recently, Kalakada police caught a seven-member gang while digging in the fields abutting a forest. They said the gangs were active in luring innocent people in rural areas with the promise of a share in the find. Some advances would be collected from them for conducting of rituals like animal sacrifice and occult worship.

Police have now intensified vigil at some of the old and abandoned historical structures in the western mandals of Anantapur.

Some villages in Rayachoti and Veeraballi mandals of Kadapa district are also considered vulnerable to such clandestine digging.

“We are leaving no stone unturned to pin down the treasure hunters,” sub-inspector Reddy said after the triple murder in Anantapur district. An awareness campaign would also be taken up in the vulnerable areas seeking public cooperation to provide information about the “ treasure hunters”, he added.

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