Regional police take over investigation of Bedřiška arson attack
The investigation of the arson attack on a Roma home in the Bedřiška settlement of Ostrava has been taken up by the regional-level police. The crime is now being investigated as a more serious offense, but details are not yet clear. The local police team will also continue to investigate. "Regional staff will just augment the investigation. The case will be overseen by the Ostrava Region state prosecutor,” Ostrava Police director Tomáš Landsfeld told the Czech Press Agency today.
Landsfeld said the legal qualification of the case will definitely change. Until now the attack was investigated as reckless endangerment. There are now three possibilities under consideration: Felony reckless endangerment, attempted murder, or attempted grievous bodily harm. "I have no comment. It’s more complicated. No change should be expected today,” prosecutor Brigita Bilíková told the Czech Press Agency. Bilíková also oversaw the investigation of a previous arson attack on a Romani family in Vítkov. The Regional Court will start handling that case in May.
The detectives’ work is being complicated by a great deal of potentially misleading information which they must verify. For example, on Tuesday evening it was reported that three skinheads drove to the settlement and entered one of the homes there. "We are not going to comment on every visit there,” Landsfeld said, adding that the group had nothing to do with the Molotov cocktail attack. However, rumor of the visit spread quickly among locals and tensions have risen again in the settlement.
Police have also rejected the possibility that a white car alleged to have driven past the home prior to the attack had anything to do with it, as it is probable the car was a municipal police vehicle. "Given the increasing amount of misleading information that is significantly complicating the performance of the investigation, we will not comment on any information that might favor a particular version,” said Ostrava Police spokesperson Gabriela Holčáková.
An arsonist or arsonists attacked the single-family home in the settlement in the early morning hours of Sunday. A Molotov cocktail containing a highly flammable liquid broke the window of a room in which a 14-year-old girl was sleeping. The bottle itself did not break and the chemicals inside it did not catch fire. A section of carpet did catch fire from the wick. The girl was awoken by the sound of the glass breaking and managed to put the fire out. For the time being, police have not discovered any evidence confirming the hypothesis that the attack was racially motivated. It is also likely that a resident of the settlement is behind the crime.
Last April arsonists attacked the single-family home of a Romani family in Vítkov. The subsequent investigation revealed that three Molotov cocktails were thrown into the house. Three people were injured during the subsequent blaze. The most serious injuries were sustained by little Natálka, who was not quite two years old at the time. She suffered extensive second and third-degree burns over 80 % of her body.
The trial of four right-wing extremists from Bruntál and Opava accused of the Vítkov arson will begin at the Regional Court in Ostrava on 11 May. The main hearing will be conducted under extraordinary security measures. The men are charged with the racially motivated attempted murder of multiple individuals, including a child. They face up to 15 years in prison, but exceptional sentencing, including life sentencing, is also possible.
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