- Hired priest arrested after he allegedly confessed to the police
Chamarajanagar: Although tragically 15 devotees who consumed poisoned prasadam at a temple in Chamarajanagar died, the police have finally unraveled the plot involving rivalry and infighting within the trust that owns the temple.
According to the investigators probing the incident, a priest has confessed to mixing insecticide in the food, which was distributed as prasadam.
The police on Tuesday arrested Doddaiah, a priest from a village close to Sulwadi, after he allegedly confessed to the crime. Doddaiah revealed that Himmadi Mahadeva Swami, the head of the trust, had allegedly hired him to carry out the deed. The Rampura police had previously registered an FIR against seven people in connection with the crime.
All eateries should not be seen in bad light over isolated incidents of food poisoning: Hoteliers' body
“The temple was generating a lot of revenue. The trust is headed by Himmadi Mahadeva Swami of the Saaluru Mutt. He and his cronies within the trust planned the whole thing in order to defame their rival faction in the trust,” informed an investigating official.
A trust owns the Sulwadi Kicchu Maramma Temple. However, its trustees were divided on various matters, which had led to the formation of two factions: one with Himmadi Mahadeva Swami and his cronies, V Madaiah and the temple manager Madesh; and the other faction with Khajanchi Neelakantha Shivacharya, the assistant manager P Gurumallappa, the secretary Shashibimba, trust members Chinnappi, P Shivanna, H Lokesh and N Keshavamurthy.
According to the police, the temple’s finances were steadily increasing and Himmadi Mahadeva Swamy had been allegedly pilfering funds. This angered the trustees of the other faction.
An investigating official informed that Chinnappi, Neelakantha and the others opposed Himmadi Mahadeva Swami pocketing all the money. They demanded that proper books be maintained. Chinnappi also began auditing the temple’s finances. This did not bode well with Himmadi Mahadeva Swami.
This year during the month of October, Himmadi Mahadev, Madaiah and Madesh decided to construct a new gopuram for the temple. Himmadi Mahadeva had allegedly contracted the job at the cost of Rs 1.2 crore to his associates.
When the other members of the trust found out, they were not happy about it. The trust had only Rs 34 lakh left and a Rs 1.2 crore project was too much to handle, inform the police.
Later, Chinappi and the trustees in the other faction allegedly obtained a new contract in December at a much affordable price, and had decided to organise a ceremony to mark the first day of the gopuram’s construction.
Eventually, Himmadi Mahadeva Swami found that he could not control the members of the other faction; he allegedly decided to retaliate and defame Chinnappi and the others.
According to the police, the plan was to mix the insecticide in the cooking water. Once the people ate the prasadam and would fall sick, then Chinnappi and the other trustees would be defamed. This way, the Swamiji could take control of the trust
Immediately after receiving an invite for the ceremony, Himmadi Mahadeva contacted Madesh and his wife Ambika, and allegedly hatched a plot to poison the prasadam. The duo were responsible for procuring the insecticide. Madesh and Ambika allegedly handed over the insecticide to the priest Doddaiah of the Nagarcoil Temple in a nearby village.
On Dec 14th morning, Doddaiah arrived at the temple. When everyone was at the ceremony, he went into the kitchen and mixed the insecticide in the pulav. Chinnappi and his son Lokeah distributed the food to the devotees oblivious to the knowledge that the food was poisoned.
The over acting
With the news of the tragedy beginning to spread, Doddaiah rushed to KR Hospital in Mysuru, claiming that he had stomach ache. The doctors at the hospital did not notice any of the symptoms of organophosphate poisoning in Doddaiah. Therefore, to clear any doubts, his blood sample was collected and sent for testing. Meanwhile, the culprit was resting in KR Hospital’s ward number 12.
The police inform that the blood work came back on December 17 and that’s when the doctors knew that Doddaiah was pretending to be ill. Soon we were informed and Doddaiah was arrested. He confessed to the crime after questioning.