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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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TRANSPORT

Macron’s plans for suburban train networks in French cities

Sometimes counting over 1.3 million passengers per day, Paris' suburban transport system - the RER - helps people get in and out of the city without having to rely on a car. According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it might soon be duplicated in other French cities too.

Macron's plans for suburban train networks in French cities

Those commuting in and out of Paris, as well as tourists looking to enjoy a day at Disneyland, are familiar with the region’s extensive suburban train network (RER). According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it might soon be replicated in other French cities in the coming years.

In the latest in a series of short-videos answering constituents’ “ecological” questions, the President responded to the question “What are you doing to develop rail transport in France, and offer a real alternative to [travelling by] car?” by offering plans to duplicate Paris’ RER system elsewhere.

You can watch the full video here;

Macron said that building suburban train networks in other cities would be “a great goal for ecology, the economy, and quality of life.”

While he did not name any locations in particular, the president did say that the plans would concern “the ten main French cities.”

While reminiscing about his grandfather, a former railway worker, Macron added that the project would help to decarbonise transport and ease congestion in city centres.

The RER (Réseau Express Régional) system in Paris is a network of trains running across the region, connecting the suburbs to the city. The network has been expanding since the 1960s. While it now covers a large area, the network is notably less reliable than the city-centre Metro services, with users often complaining of delays and poor infrastructure.

According to Le Figaro, cities such as Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Grenoble, and Aix-en-Provence have already expressed plans to develop similar suburban train networks.

Lyon, France’s third-largest city and second-largest metropolitan area, has already discussed plans for the Lyon RER, with hopes that it will be fully operational by 2035, at an estimated cost of between €1.4 and €7 billion.

As for when, the President did not give a timeline, but the Elysée told Le Figaro that the first step would be for “the orientation council for transport infrastructure” to identify which projects could be “launched first.”

The project will also be steered by France’s Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, the former Minister of Transport. When she was in this role, Borne had submitted plans to develop RER systems in different French cities.

The project to add suburban train networks across the country was met with support from the current Transport Minister, Clément Beaune, who welcomed the plans as a “major ecological and social transformation for the coming decade.”

However, not everyone is convinced. Some, like the Mayor of Cébazat in Puy-de-Dôme, have already questioned whether the Paris region concept, which would require heavy investment, could effectively be replicated smaller cities.

“It must be fully efficient,” the Mayor, who is also an expert in transportation, told Le Parisien.

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