Rwandan volunteer confesses in Nantes Cathedral arson

The man who was briefly imprisoned last week after the fire at Nantes Cathedral confessed in a new police interview that he set the fire. That’s what a prosecutor told the French newspaper Le Monde. The suspect, who was arrested again yesterday, is a 39 – year-old man from Rwanda who volunteered for the diocese. He’s been charged with arson.

The newspaper writes that the man previously denied having anything to do with the fire, but later admitted to the judge commissioner that he set three fires in the church.

The Rwandan, a Catholic refugee, worked for the Diocese of Nantes for four or five years. According to a priest, on July 17, a few hours before the fire broke out, he was ordered to close the doors of the cathedral. What his motive for setting the fire was is still unclear.

The newspaper Le Parisien reports that the suspect had no residence permit and should have left the country in november last year. Other media reports that he had trouble extending his visa. The Rwandan attorney and the Justice Department won’t comment on his status.

Suspect is in custody. He’s facing 10 years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros. His lawyer says he’s sorry and that he’s cooperating with the investigation.

When the man was first arrested last week, the district attorney said that was a normal procedure. He thought it was premature at the time to identify the volunteer as a suspect. The Home Secretary later said that there was no indication of a criminal offense, but that is now being contradicted by the defendant himself and the prosecution.

Research has shown that the fire broke out in three different parts of the church, which is consistent with the defendant’s statement. No sign of forced entry.

At the fire the famous organ of the cathedral was destroyed. It dates back to 1621 and survived the French Revolution and the bombing during the Second World War. Valuable works of art, including a painting by Hippolyte Flandrin from the nineteenth century, were lost in the fire.

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