Police inspecting the area surrounding the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Queen Street, where the robbery took place.
GEORGE TOWN: 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 RM45,000.
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 the time of the burglary could not be ascertained yet.
“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.
George Town OCPD Asst Comm Gan Kong Meng said the case was being investigated under Section 457 of the Penal Code for burglary.
“We urge those with information to come forward and assist us. There were no closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the temple and surrounding areas.
Padang Kota assemblyman Chow Kon Yeow also rushed to the scene to check out the situation upon learning of the incident.