Police have caught up with the leading suspect in the case of a 33-year-old Indian man who died when he ended up on the tracks of a metro line.

"/> Police have caught up with the leading suspect in the case of a 33-year-old Indian man who died when he ended up on the tracks of a metro line.

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Metro death suspect held by Paris police

Police have caught up with the leading suspect in the case of a 33-year-old Indian man who died when he ended up on the tracks of a metro line.

The 23-year-old man was arrested in a bar in the northern Pigalle area of the city at 6.30pm on Tuesday evening, according to newspaper Le Figaro.

The story of Rajinder Singh, who went by the nickname Babu, has stirred up much emotion and sympathy in France. He died after going to the aid of a woman who was being mugged on a metro train on Thursday evening. 

After continuing a scuffle with the attacker on the platform at the Crimée station in the north of the city he was either pushed or fell onto the tracks and was electrocuted, dying instantly. 

Police used video surveillance footage to help identify the man. According to the newspaper, the man of Egyptian origin fled the scene of the death but returned shortly afterwards, showing his face to cameras. 

The dead man was originally from the Punjab state of India and came to Paris seven years ago to earn money to help his family. He had been working as a pizza deliverer and had moved into an apartment with his girlfriend.

A moving tribute to Rajinder Singh in Wednesday’s Le Parisien newspaper prompted hundreds of supportive comments on the newspaper’s website and its Facebook page. 

“This man died simply because he put himself between a victim and a mugger,” said one. “If we all had the same values, Babu wouldn’t be dead.”

The newspaper also reported that Mr Singh’s family in India was desperate for his body to be sent home for a traditional funeral, but that friends were struggling to get the €5,000 ($6,600) required for the journey. The charitable foundation of the Paris transport network, Fondation RATP, has stepped in and will cover the costs.

“The president of RATP, Pierre Mongin, has been very touched by this drama and would like us to cover all repatriation costs,” said Florence Rodet, head of the foundation.

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WILDFIRES

French police track forest fire-starters by air and land

On the ground, two officers from a special mobile brigade of France's paramilitary gendarmerie speed along a forest track.

French police track forest fire-starters by air and land

Above them, a helicopter scans the landscape to warn them of any fires or anyone who might be looking to start one.

These are the members of a newly created police team who have just started patrolling in southwest France to seek out and arrest the fire-starters devastating the region’s forests.

In the last week, no less than 20 fires have broken out in the forest bordering the seaside resort of Soulac-sur-Mer in the La Gironde department of southwest France, says the local gendarmerie.

While some have burned for just a 100 square metres (322 square feet), the largest devoured 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest.

Scorched trees and charred trunks line the paths and cycle paths that criss-cross the woods.

To stop the devastation, local officials have sent in the new unit, the Forest Vigilance Platoon (PVF) made up of 15 reservist gendarmes, a senior police officer and two motorcyclists from the mobile brigade, backed up by the
helicopter.

Spread across three zones, the PVF patrol the forest on motorbikes, all-terrain bicycles or in cars, where possible, on the hunt for fire-starters.

Set up just last week they started patrolling on Thursday.

The idea is that the PVF will free up firefighters who have been stretched thin battling blazes that since Tuesday have burned up 7,400 hectares of pine forests at the southern end of Gironde.

“After the major fires in July, we observed a rise in the number of arson cases,” said Martin Guespereau, deputy prefect for defence and security in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, which covers the Gironde.

“There are around twenty fires of unknown origin a day in Gironde.”

¬†According to France’s National Forests Office (ONF) nine out of 10 fires were started by people — and three out of 10 were started deliberately.

Forest off-limits

“The Forest Vigilance Platoon is a support division, whose aim is to prevent, detect and possible to arrest,” said Captain Christophe Roque, who was given the job of putting the team together.

Red-and-white signs at the edge of the Soulac-sur-Mer forest inform walkers that due to the “very severe” risk of fire, the forest is off-limits to the public until further notice — and has been since August 11.

A few cyclists were nevertheless out on the trails on Saturday, and were quickly intercepted by the gendarmes of the PVF.

“As soon as we come across someone, we get their identity,” said one member of the team, Bruno Kechtoff. “Because if we come across the same person several times, then that becomes suspicious.”

A message comes over the radio: two outbreaks of fire barely 500 metres (yards) apart, near Bazas, south of Bordeaux, the regional capital. A local has reported seeing someone on a moped wearing “yellow-trimmed” trousers”.

The LVF’s helicopter veers off towards Bazas, 130 kilometres away (80 miles) away.

Where they are sent next depends on where the next fires break out, says Constable Jeremy Hernandez. “We have been called here urgently but we can move if other areas are concerned.”

Then they are in their car and driving off, siren wailing, on the look-out for a quad reported in the woods.

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