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.”