Thief 'may have had insider help'

GEORGE TOWN - The Kong Hock Keong temple management believes that an insider was involved in the foiled attempt to steal a diamond from the forehead of the Goddess of Mercy statue there.

Its board of trustees chairman Datuk Lam Wu Chong, said he did not rule out the possibility that an internal source had tipped off the 35-year-old burglar about the diamond.

He said there was a need to step up security at the landmark 213-year-old temple to ward off intruders.

"The whole episode could have been avoided if there was less public access to the main altar where the Kuan Yin statue is placed.

"Our committee will convene a meeting to discuss precautionary measures," Lam said at the temple yesterday.

He said he did not know the value of the diamond, which he believed had existed for more than 200 years.

"We need to enlist a gemstone expert to determine the actual value of the yellowish gem stone."

Lam said the temple's staff had wrongly informed the police that the diamond had gone missing when it was intact on the statue's forehead.

Earlier, a police spokesman said an investigation team found remnants of the diamond in the shattered glass casing of the deity.

He said the suspected burglar, who was beaten up prior to his arrest, was in stable condition.

The suspect had apparently used a hammer to smash the case.

The noise prompted a 45-year-old caretaker and two other men to nab the suspect.