SIBU: Police arrested a 36-year-old goldsmith from Sarikei on Thursday to help in investigations into the spate of Iban graveyard thefts here.
Sibu OCPD Asst Comm Sebastian Gaong said police had also detained the main suspect, in his 40s, who had eluded them since last year.
Two more suspects would be arrested soon, he said.
The arrests were a major breakthrough for the police to solve the case, he told reporters yesterday before chairing a meeting of a task force set up to investigate the thefts.
This is the first meeting of the Rejang Basin police task force involving police chiefs from Sarikei and Mukah divisions and Sibu, Mukah, Kanowit, Julau, Bintangor and Dalat districts.
All these places have been plagued with the same problem. Grave robbers have desecrated the Iban cemeteries to look for valuables or baya (gold items) buried with the dead, he said.
This year alone, they had desecrated about 80 graves in three cemeteries here where most of the remains of the dead were dug out and strewn around, three in Sarikei and 10 in Kanowit, he said.
Gaong said police had spoken to the Iban community to dissuade them from burying their dead with valuables.
I believe these unscrupulous people are merely trying to salvage the valuables buried with the dead and not for bones to be used in sorcery as rumoured, he said.
Gaong also advised the Iban community in the affected areas to visit their isolated cemeteries from time to time.
He said seven people, who were allegedly involved in the Sungai Aup Iban cemetery desecration case here last year had been charged in court and their trial was expected to start in August. Bernama.