Police said to doubt girls' arson claims

10th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The fire that killed 9 Turks living in Germany may have been caused by faulty wiring, officials say.

Berlin --A fire that killed nine Turkish Alawites in a German tenement building a week ago could have been caused by worn- out electrical wiring, not arson as claimed by two little girls, police sources quoted by two news magazines said Saturday.

The Turkish media has highlighted concerns that the fire in the low-rent, century-old building could have been set off deliberately.

German police, assisted by four Turkish police liaison officers, say they are keeping an open mind about the cause as they comb through the ruin for forensic evidence about the blaze.

A police spokeswoman in Ludwigshafen declined to comment on the magazine reports. She emphasized Saturday that neither arson nor any other cause had been ruled out by the investigation so far.

A memorial ceremony to the victims, five of them children, killed by toxic fumes in a third-storey flat, is to be held Sunday outside the ruin. The dead are to be buried in Turkey. Most of them observed the Alawite faith.

Two girl survivors, 8 and 9, told reporters a man had thrown lighted tapers into prams in the entrance area just before the blaze.

But the news magazines Der Spiegel and Focus said Saturday that detectives were relying mainly on testimony by the girls' grandfather that he saw the first flames on February 3 one storey lower, in the basement.

Focus claimed police notes showed the girls' description of the alleged arsonist were inconsistent.

One girl was asked, "What colour was his hair?" She answered, "Black." "Did he have freckles?" --"Yes." "Do you know what freckles are?" - "No."

The grandfather had told police he ran downstairs and saw the flames coming from an internal basement door after the girls said, "Something smells burnt." The girls did not mention any arsonist to him, according to the magazine.

The magazine said tenants had regularly complained to the landlords, also Turkish, that the electrical wiring was unreliable, with doorbells and lights sometimes not working, but there had been no repairs.

DPA with Expatica

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