Refugee who volunteered at French cathedral admits setting fire, lawyer says


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A Rwandan refugee who volunteered as a guardian of the French cathedral in Nantes in the 15th century confessed to starting the fire that ravaged his home a week ago, his lawyer said on Sunday.

The suspect, whose name has not been made public, was taken into police custody on Saturday following his confession. He had been arrested and released earlier in the investigation.

“With these confessions, there is a kind of relief: it is someone who is afraid, who is somehow overwhelmed,” said his lawyer, Quentin Chabert, on Sunday at a press conference. “It was important for him, with this cooperation, to show his sincerity.

General view of the fire at the cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul of Nantes, in Nantes, France, July 18, 2020 Ludovic Stang / via REUTERS

When asked why his client started the fires, Chabert declined to elaborate.

The fire of July 18 engulfed the interior of the Gothic structure of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral, destroying its large organ, stained glass windows and a painting.

Fires broke out in three different places in the building, with no sign of a break-in, authorities said. The restoration of the building will take at least three years, said the chief architect of historical monuments of France, Pascal Prunet.


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