Indian police have arrested five men accused of conducting a human sacrifice, nearly four years after the discovery of the victim's headless body at a Hindu temple left officers baffled.
Shanti Shaw, 64, was killed and decapitated with a machete in 2019 after visiting the temple in Guwahati, a city in India's remote northeast.
Police made no headway in the case until Shaw's body was finally identified in January, sparking a renewed investigation that tracked down several culprits, with others still at large.
"The five planned the killing of the woman," Guwahati police commissioner Diganta Barah told reporters late Tuesday. "A total of 12 people took part."
Brother's death anniversary
Barah said the alleged ringleader, Pradeep Pathak, 52, had orchestrated the killing as part of a religious rite to mark the anniversary of his brother's death.
"The accused apparently believed that the sacrifice would appease the soul of the deceased," he added.
Pathak and four others were taken into custody between March 25 and April 1, with police still hunting for their remaining seven accomplices.
India's National Crime Records Bureau lodged 103 cases of human sacrifice in the country between 2014 and 2021.
Ritual killings are usually conducted to appease deities and are more common in tribal and remote areas, where belief in witchcraft and the occult is widespread.
Last year two men were arrested for allegedly killing a six-year-old boy in the capital New Delhi.
The culprits, both construction workers, told police they murdered the child as an offering to the Hindu god Shiva to get rich.