Alleged Arsonist Caught: Man Arrested for Torching Dozens of Cars in Berlin

Left-wing extremists are often associated with the car arsons that have swept through Berlin and Hamburg in recent months and years. But a suspect arrested last week was just frustrated, Berlin police said. They identified the man, who confessed to setting fire to 67 cars, with the help of CCTV.  

Fire fighters extinguish a blazing car in Berlin, one of hundreds set set on fire this year. Zoom
DPA

Fire fighters extinguish a blazing car in Berlin, one of hundreds set set on fire this year.

Following a rash of car burnings in recent months, Berlin police have ramped up their efforts to locate suspects. This weekend these measures seemed to have paid off.

A 27-year-old man has confessed to burning or damaging more than 100 cars in the German capital, police said at a press conference on Sunday. The arrest was a "sensational success," head of Berlin's State Office of Criminal Investigations (LKA) Christian Steiof said.

The suspect admitted to setting 67 cars ablaze, while 35 other vehicles were damaged by the flames. Police closed in on the man by analysing surveillance footage from public transport, which he used to travel to and from the crime scenes. He was identified by police and on Friday confessed to the spate of arson attacks, they said.

Though car burnings in Berlin and Hamburg are often attributed to left-wing extremists, police alleged the unemployed suspect was motivated by frustration and envy rather than politics. He allegedly set fire 47 cars in August alone, targeting vehicles made by luxury German automakers such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

His nocturnal campaign halted mid-August when he started working part-time, investigators said. He apparently operated alone, causing millions of euros in damages.

Hard to Track Down

So far this year, Berlin has seen 341 cars set ablaze and 470 vehicles damaged by the fires. Faced with a spike in arson attacks this summer, police in the German capital asked their Federal colleagues for help locating the culprits, who vanish swiftly after setting cars alight, making them notoriously difficult to track down.

Every night since late August up to 500 police have been deployed to track down the criminals, using high-tech equipment and helicopters with thermal image cameras.

But Steiof warned that Friday's arrest was unlikely to halt Berlin's series of arson attacks. "I'm 100-percent certain the phenomenon will continue to keep us busy," he said.

-- jas, with wire reports

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