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CRIME

DNA tests to find ‘serial arsonist’ in Breton village

The residents of a sleepy Breton village may not have to wait much longer to know the identity of a serial arsonist, who has terrorized them by burning down eight buildings in just over a year. Police are to take DNA samples from local men in the hope they might help snare the culprit.

DNA tests to find 'serial arsonist' in Breton village
The port at Larmor-Baden in Brittany. Photo: Damien Boilley

The quaint seaside town of Larmor-Baden in Brittany has had no less than eight dwellings burnt to cinders over the last 12 months, including one which destroyed the local priest’s home in December.

Police believe a serial arsonist is at large but so far have failed to track him or her down. The village tormentor has destroyed holiday homes and a brasserie in recent months, among other targets, but so far the fires have not led to any fatalities.

On Wednesday, the public prosecutor for the region, Thierry Phelippeau, announced that saliva samples were to be taken from every local man between the ages of 15 and 75, to try and track down the fire-starter.

“The main theory is that this is a male resident of the town,” Phelippeau said on TF1 television.  Investigators did manage to take a DNA sample from one of the burned-out buildings and no want to see if a match can be found among the 400 strong male population of the town. "The samples will be destroyed after they are checked," the prosecutor added.

“We feel the culprit is getting bolder in his choice of targets and I’m afraid that if these fires start up again, there will be a real risk to lives,” said Phelippeau.

According to Phelippeau, the collection of male DNA samples will take between two and three weeks, but nobody will be forced to submit to the testing.

However, he added, “in the case of a refusal, that person will be of interest to investigators.”

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TRAVEL

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

Ever seen those drivers who avoid the queues at toll booths and driving straight through? Here's how they do it.

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

If you’re driving on French autoroutes one of the things you need to know is that they are not free – you will have to pay regular tolls, payable at toll booths known as péage.

Usually, drivers pick up a ticket from a booth at the start of their journey, then pay the required amount at a booth at the end of it – or when they move onto a different section of autoroute – based on the distance they have travelled.

But the toll booths themselves can be busy, especially during the summer, and long queues sometimes build up.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

This is where automated pay systems – known as télépéage – come in, especially for those who use the motorway network regularly.

As well as allowing you to pass straight through péages without stopping for payment, it’s also very useful for owners of right-hand drive vehicles, who may otherwise find that they’re sitting on the wrong side for easy and speedy payment.

Here’s how it works

Order your télépéage badge online

Click on the Bip&Go website here and follow the instructions to order a scannable personalised device (up to a maximum of two per account for private users). You will need to set up an account to arrange electronic payment of charges.

The website is available in English, French, German or Dutch.

You will need to supply bank details (IBAN number), address (for delivery), mobile phone number (to activate your account) and the vehicle’s registration details.

Your badge will be dispatched to your address within 48 hours from the opening of your online account. You can have the device sent to addresses outside France, but allow longer for it to arrive. 

If you’re in France, you can also pick up the device at one of Bip&Go’s stores, if you prefer – you will need need your bank details, proof of identity and a mobile phone.

Attach your badge 

Place your device on on the windscreen to the right of the rearview mirror. It is activated and ready to go. Then, simply, drive.

At the péage

All toll booths are equipped with the sensors that recognise that the vehicle is carrying the necessary device. At most, you will have to stop briefly for the device to be recognised and the barrier to lift.

You will also be able to drive through certain booth areas without stopping. These are indicated by an orange t symbol on the overhead signs. The maximum speed you can pass through these booths is 30kph.

Payments

Payments are processed automatically. You can monitor the amounts you have to pay on an app.

Do I need separate badges for motorway networks run by different companies?

No. The badge allows holders to travel on the entire French motorway network, no matter which company manages the motorway, and you can also use it to cross a number of toll structures in France such as the Millau Viaduct, the Tancarville Bridge or the Normandie Bridge, and pay to park in more than 450 car parks. 

Is it only valid in France?

No, with certain packages, you can also as easily travel on motorways in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and use a number of compatible car parks. You can even use them on Italian ferries.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

Subscriptions to the Bip&Go service depend on what type of service you want. A fixed price rolling subscription is €16 a year – plus toll charges – but assumes you’re a regular user of French motorways. 

A pay-as-you-go subscription is €1.70 for every month the badge is in use – plus toll charges – and carries a €10 additional fee if the badge is not used in a 12-month period.

How much are the toll charges?

They depend on the road you’re on, how far you travel along it, and the vehicle you’re driving.

Heading from Toulouse to Biarritz along the A64 will cost a total €23 in fees for a private car and if you’re driving all the way from Calais down to the Mediterranean coast expect to pay around €70 once you add up the various tolls along the way.

You can find out tariffs for autoroutes on the website of France’s official autoroute body AFSA – where you can also calculate the cost of your journey – including fuel.

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