There have been arrests after an attempt by a group of masked men to rob Bulgaria’s Rozhen Monastery, but police were declining to say how many of the group of six had been taken into custody.
The arrests followed the robbery attempt, which took place at about 8pm on September 18.
The group tied up a priest, identified in media reports as Teofil, and used picks and spades to break into a wall behind the iconostasis in the monastery, one of Bulgaria’s oldest, dating from before the 15th century. Local legend has it that treasure is concealed somewhere in the monastery.
But the group left after about 30 minutes with no treasure, but with the priest’s mobile phone, which they apparently took to prevent him calling emergency number 112.
Earlier on September 19, it emerged that security cameras had filmed the faces of two of the group.
On September 19, public admission to the site was barred as police were investigating. Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture said that it was investigating whether there had been any damage to the cultural heritage at the monastery.
While details of the arrests were not made public, local television station bTV said that one person had been arrested in Kurdzhali, another in Sofia, and the rest in Petrich and Sandanski.
Senior Commissioner Nikolai Hadzhiev confirmed to local media that there had been arrests, adding that work on the case was continuing.
Elena Gotseva of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Sandanski said that pre-trial proceedings had been initiated but no criminal charges had yet been pressed.
Teofil, who was standing in as abbot on secondment from another monastery, was reported to be shaken but uninjured. The group of robbers had not been armed, reports said.
(Photo: Rh, via Wikimedia Commons)