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29-year-old placed under arrest for Joensuu church fire

A local man is suspected of setting ablaze one of eastern Finland’s oldest wooden churches, which was destroyed over the weekend.

Poliisi tutkii palaneen kirkon raunioita.
A police dog and handler search the ruins of Kiihtelysvaara Church. Image: Petri Lassheikki / Yle

North Karelia District Court has remanded in custody a man suspected of starting a fire that levelled a historic church last weekend. The court and the former Kiihtelysvaara Lutheran Church are both in the eastern city of Joensuu.

The suspect, a local 29-year-old, was one of four people detained on Monday. The other three have been freed while the investigation moves forward.

However, Detective Chief Inspector Simo Hämäläinen of the Eastern Finland Police, who is heading up the probe, says that the three others are still under suspicion.

“Their status as suspects will be clarified as the preliminary investigation proceeds and as we receive new information,” he said.

Police seek public assistance

The prime suspect must be formally charged by early January.

Police are asking for any observations or surveillance camera footage from last Saturday night or Sunday morning that may be related to the case.

The fire was discovered in the early morning hours of Sunday.

Some items of value were rescued but it was too late for firefighters to save the building, which burned to the ground. The wooden Kiihtelysvaara Church was completed in 1770.

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