Berlin Arson Suspect Burned Luxury Cars 'To Punish People Who Were Better Off'

So far this year, some 550 cars have been torched in Berlin. Police suspect left-wing political extremists for some of the attacks. But about 100 of the damaged cars may have been set off by a single down-and-out (and envious) man, who authorities call An

A torched luxury car in Berlin, Germany (2009)
A torched luxury car in Berlin, Germany (2009)


BERLIN -- The first time André H., 27, torched a car in Berlin was on June 7, 2011 at around 3 a.m. His modus operandi remained the same over the next two months – targeting the expensive Audi, Mercedes, and BMW brands that he himself, an occasional worker, could not afford.

While the vehicles burned, H. was already on his way to torch another, or heading home by bike, subway or bus. By Aug. 27, he had burned 67 cars and damaged 35 others around Berlin, with the total bill amounting to millions of euros.

Last Friday, Berlin police arrested the alleged arsonist, who at first admitted to only one incident but confessed to the full extent of the activity after being confronted with CCTV footage. According to the police, H. – who is "psychologically fragile" but has apparently never received therapy – acted out of frustration at his lack of success, money troubles, and a kind of "diffused social envy at those who supposedly had it better than him." When he got a temp job in late August, he stopped the activity.

Prior to his arrest, André H., who was on social benefits, lived in a small apartment with his mother and invalid sister, according to Die Welt sources. A neighbor stated that when his mother became seriously ill he "reached the limit of what he could stand." A police officer stated that "it seemed to him André H. that things were going a lot better for others, as symbolized by ownership of the three brands of car that he repeatedly torched. He seems to have wanted to punish people who were better off financially."

It remains unclear if H. realized that he could have killed people when, for example, on July 28, he burnt a car in a carport and the flames reached the roof of an apartment building. A few days later, he burned several vehicles at a car rental business. The cars were parked near a gas pump, and residents of a nearby old peoples' home had to be evacuated. No one was injured in the incidents.

One thing is clear: the majority of the spate of car torchings in Berlin – 550 so far this year – were not carried out by H. but rather by left-wing political extremists and imitators. André H., who is responsible for about a fifth of the car torchings in Berlin in 2011, faces up to 15 years in jail.

Read the full story in German by M. Behrendt, D. Ehrentraut, J. Wiedemann and S. Pletl

Photo – PhyreWorx

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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