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Volunteer admits to starting blaze in arson attack that damaged France's Nantes cathedral


The fire that broke out on Saturday July 18 in Nantes cathedral destroyed stained glass windows and works of art, including the great organ.
The fire that broke out on Saturday July 18 in Nantes cathedral destroyed stained glass windows and works of art, including the great organ. AP Photo/Laetitia Notarianni
2 min

French police have taken into custody and charged a volunteer worker who confessed to carrying out last week’s arson attack on a 15th-century cathedral in the western city of Nantes.

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The man, a 39-year-old refugee from Rwanda, had been released earlier in the week after being questioned by police over the 18 July fire that badly damaged the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral.

According to his lawyer, the man was remanded in custody Saturday night after confessing before an examining magistrate to lighting three fires that destroyed the cathedral’s signature 17th-century organ and shattered many of its stained glass windows.

"My client cooperated … He bitterly regrets his actions and confession has been a relief for him,” lawyer Quentin Chabert told the local daily Presse Océan. “He is consumed by remorse and is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the events.” 

The man had lived in Nantes for several years after arriving in France in 2012. As part of a team of parish volunteers, it was his responsibility to close the cathedral building on 17 July - the day before the fire. A police source told the media the man had lied about his schedule.

According to several testimonies, the man was facing an order to leave French territory. 

The Nantes prosecutor's office has opened a judicial investigation for arson.

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