In the process of arson on a riding stable near Gelnhausen, the judges of the Hanau district court dealt with the cause of the fire on Thursday. An expert from the State Office of Criminal Investigation, who had examined the scene of the fire ten days after the fire, was interviewed. According to his conclusion from the traces in the former forester's lodge, the fire must have broken out in the part of the building where the defendant's apartment was located. The expert on fires said something else quite clearly: The fire must have been triggered by "human action".

Jan Schiefenhövel

Editor at the Rhein-Main-Zeitung.

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A technical cause, such as a defect in an electrical device, can be ruled out by the detective. In this case, traces of a short circuit should have been found, which did not exist at the scene of the fire. For example, the electrical control unit of the refrigerator in the defendant's apartment was intact.

The 17th century residential building was in flames on the night of August 15, 2022, the extinguishing work lasted for hours. After that, the building could no longer be saved, the damage caused by fire and extinguishing water was too serious, as the owner had testified on an earlier day of the hearing. After all, all the residents were able to leave the burning house because a woman had been woken up by the barking of her dog and noticed the fire.

Charge: attempted murder

The defendant, now 56 years old, is accused of deliberately setting fire to the historic house in which she lived as one of three tenants until the fire. Prosecutor Jana Gladeck sees this as an insidious act that could have caused the death of the sleeping neighbors. Therefore, the charge is not only arson, but also attempted murder. According to her own words, the defendant Petra R. cannot remember the fire. She testified earlier in the trial that she left the farm with her car on the night of the fire to drive to Switzerland. There she was arrested a week later and extradited to Germany.

The defendant lived in an annex of the residential building, the other tenants in the main house. The whole building was clad on the façade with wood, as the fire expert testified on Thursday. In addition, the building was made of half-timbering, as seen in a photo shown in the courtroom. In a picture taken by the fire brigade during the extinguishing, large flames hit through the already burned roof and out of the window of the room in which the defendant's kitchen had been.

The fact that the fire has caused so much damage to the house does not make it easy for the expert to determine the cause of the fire, as he explained. In addition, the fire site had been changed when extinguishing, so the firefighters had torn down walls. However, the picture of the damage suggests that fire broke out in two places, namely in the defendants' kitchen and in the stairwell. These are the places where the greatest damage occurs.

Where exactly in the kitchen the fire had been ignited, however, can no longer be said. What is certain, however, is that the flames did not originate from the part of the house inhabited by the other tenants.