Visitor to Delhi’s National Museum walks away with exhibit because he ‘liked’ it

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New Delhi, Jul 14: A 53-year-old man has been arrested from Gurugram for allegedly stealing a replica of the ancient ‘Olduvai Handaxe’ from the National Museum at Janpath, Delhi police said on Saturday.

Deputy commissioner of police (New Delhi) Madhur Verma said Uday Ratra was arrested from his Gurugram residence by a South Avenue police team around 3 am on Saturday. “We have recovered the stolen replica of the Olduvai Handaxe, one of the first greatest inventions of mankind going back to over 1.5 million years,” he added.

According to Verma, museum authorities noticed that the object was missing on June 24. “Upon being alerted to the theft, we scanned CCTV footage and found a man leaving the premises with the stolen item,” he said.

A scrutiny of the visitors’ register helped the police identify the alleged thief as Ratra. “We acquired the accused’s residential address and sent a team there. However, Ratra’s father – a former coast guard official – said that he was in Chandigarh. So we laid a trap outside his home and caught him when he returned around 3 am. He gave us the replica of the artefact, insisting that he had not stolen the piece but only brought it home because he happened to like it,” a police officer familiar with the case said.

Police said that Ratra was unemployed, although he hailed from a well-off family. Further scrutiny revealed that he was arrested by police on two occasions in 2016. In the first instance, he was taken into custody by the Sarojini Nagar police for picking up a fight with police personnel deployed at a luxury hotel, and in the second, he was held for allegedly stealing a bottle of imported wine from a liquor shop.

Further investigation is on.

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