The police solved the case with the help of footage captured between 1.30 pm and 3.30 pm on the day of the burglary by a CCTV camera installed on the temple premises and identified the suspect as Sunil Vitthal Bhilare (30), a resident of Jaybhavani Chawl in Kothrud, and arrested him.
The police are yet to recover the stolen cash from the accused. The incident came to light after devotees found the donation box and the window grill broken and alerted the temple authorities. When the news of the robbery spread, locals warned that they would call a one-day Kothrud bandh to protest the outrageous act on a place of worship, which had taken place in broad daylight.
“After the burglary, there was a lot of disappointment amongst the residents of the area and devotees as the temple is highly revered in the vicinity,” said senior police inspector with the Kothrud police station, Chandrakant Ghodake. Ghodake said that Bhilare is a criminal on record and is addicted to marijuana. He also has several cases of house breaking, theft and robbery lodged against him at various police stations. “On Friday afternoon, when the temple was closed between 1 pm and 4 pm, the suspect tried to dislodge the grill of a window with the help of a crowbar. When this did not work, he left, bought a hacksaw blade from a hardware shop nearby and returned to continue his operation,” said Ghodake.
He further added that this time Bhilare succeeded in breaking the grill and entered the temple. He then used the crowbar to break open the donation box and made away with Rs 72,000. The incident hurt the sentiments of devotees and residents, and Shiv Sena MLA from Kothrud Chandrakant Mokate submitted an application to the police station stating that if the culprit was not apprehended in five days, a one-day bandh would be called in the area. “After studying the footage, our team zeroed in on Bhilare as he resembled the person seen in the footage. During sustain questioning, he confessed to the crime,” Ghodake said.