Indian police charge four with murder over poisoning plot at Indian temple that killed 15 devotees 

Indian police have charged four people with murder on suspicion they deliberately poisoned the rice at a village temple, causing the death of 15 devotees, as part of an attempted power-grab.

Police say the conspiracy involves a “seer”, his lover, her husband and unwitting agricultural development officer. The plan, they claim, was to murder their rivals on the board of the Kicguth Maramma temple in the village of Sulwadi.

Mahadeva, the seer, allegedly orchestrated the plot so that he could be put in charge of the temple’s expansion and control a 3.4 million rupees (£38,000) surplus fund.

The incident left 15 temple-goers dead and hospitalised more than 100.

Detectives confirmed pesticide was used to poison the prasad (offerings) during a ceremony to bless a new chamber at the temple complex.

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Karnataka Police on Wednesday announced the arrests of Mahadeva, 52; Ambika, 35, a female devotee with whom he was having an affair; Madesha, 46, her husband and the temple manager; and Doddaiah, 35, a priest at a nearby temple. They are charged with murder, criminal conspiracy and the destruction of evidence.

Inspector General of Police KV Sharath Chandra said: “More than who did it, we focused on why they had done it. We were convinced that it was a wanton act of poisoning.”

Primary investigations revealed an internal rift between two temple factions, according to the Times of India. One led by Mahadeva and the other by the Trust chairman Chinappi, who survived the incident.

Insp Chandra told reporters Mahadev allegedly told his accomplices the incident would bring shame on Chinappi’s family and hopefully kill him, but it was “no problem if three or four people died”.

Ambika sourced the insecticide from her relative who was an agriculture department officer, allegedly on Mahadeva’s orders.

The officer, who has not been named, told police he had given Ambika two 500ml bottles of insecticide after she said that she needed it for her garden plants. When he heard about the chaos at the Temple he contacted police.

The lethal toxin has been identified as Monochrotophos — which is banned in many countries, but not in in India. It can be fatal for humans, animals and birds.

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