A 55-year-old man who had stolen the replica of a hand axe from the National Museum in Janpath has been arrested by police from Haryana. When Udai Ratra was cornered outside his house by a police team from South Avenue police station, he tried to set eight dogs on the officers. “We managed to reason with him and he was arrested. Ratra claimed he looked at the replica on display and thought it was meant for him, so he took it. He did not think it was stealing,” said a police officer.
The accused had stolen the replica of an Olduvai hand axe, believed to have been used around 1.5 million years ago in Tanzania. Museum director Dr B R Mani said, “The replica was kept out in the open so children who attend workshops could access it. It did not have a lot of value, but if anything is missing, we have to report the matter.”
Ratra, son of a former coast guard Inspector General, is unemployed. “He was deported from the United Kingdom in 2005. We don’t have documents to ascertain the reason,” said DCP (New Delhi) Madhur Verma.
He has four cases against him, including barging into Hotel Leela and assaulting policemen during a function for former US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2016; writing threatening emails to a foreign embassy; going inside a liquor store in Saket and consuming alcohol without paying for it; and entering Saket district court and stealing a police file, police said.
Ratra claimed to have done a journalism course in London and said he has worked with a media agency, which police have not been able to corroborate.
National Museum staffers realised the replica was missing only three days after it was gone. CCTV footage was checked and police narrowed down the suspect pool to seven names. Eventually, they zeroed in on Ratra and local police started investigating the case, under inspector Vijay Pal Dahiya and three other officers.
“When we looked at his pictures, he looked familiar. The police team went through criminal dossiers and got his case file,” said a police officer.
The accused had four cases against him and was found to be living in Pataudi. Police initially made contact with his father, who told them his son was in Chandigarh and would return late at night. “His father also told us he knew his son must have committed the theft,” claimed the officer.
Ratra returned around 2 am and started drinking, police said, adding that around 3 am, the team surrounded his house and asked him to surrender.
“He was not in control of himself and was about to set the dogs on us. But we managed to talk some sense into him,” said the officer.