Fears of ‘mad pyromaniac’ burning cars and trees in chic area of Nice

Investigators suspect the perpetrator to be ‘an isolated individual not in full possession of his faculties’

A view of the Nice shoreline and Promenade des Anglais at sunset
Cimiez is an affluent and normally-quiet neighbourhood in Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
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Fears are growing in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) that burnt out trees and cars, and broken car windows are the work of a pyromaniac who as yet remains at large.

Since January 10, there have been 15 reports of cars, motorbikes, and trees being burned out in the affluent and normally-quiet neighbourhood of Cimiez. Vehicles have had their windows smashed, and vegetation has been destroyed.

Vehicles were set alight on March 6, 8, 11, 13 and 15, and six cypress trees were also burned. The acts were mostly committed in the evenings between 17:00 and 20:00.

Investigators are growing increasingly convinced that the vandalism is likely the work of a ‘deranged individual’. It comes after one resident reported seeing a man enter into a block of flats’ entrance hall, holding a burning cloth.

No CCTV cameras - of which there are 4,500 in Nice - have caught sight of a possible perpetrator.

‘An individual not in full possession of his faculties’

Investigating officers have not yet ruled out any possibilities (at least, officially), but the city’s deputy mayor for security Anthony Borré, and new deputy municipal police director Rabah Souchi, held a press conference on March 18 in which they suggested it as a possibility.

"My personal feeling is that we are dealing with an isolated individual who is attacking everything that he can see, rather than settling scores,” said Mr Borré. "It is true that in this type of act, we are probably dealing with an isolated individual who is not in full possession of his faculties," said Mr Souchi.

They suggested that a possible lead could be a man who had recently been left by his wife and was seeking a kind of revenge. The directors said that “he’s probably going to do it again,” but still sought to reassure residents that the situation was under control.

Both men said they believed that the perpetrator would be caught by a CCTV camera soon, stating that the cameras are used almost 2,000 times a year for police investigations in Nice.

Six new mobile cameras are set to be installed in the Cimiez neighbourhood by the end of the week, and the local and national police would be stepping up their patrols, Mr Borré said.

He advised residents to be careful, but stated that he was not telling people “what to do”. He encouraged people to report anything they believed could be related, and said any report was "welcome".

“We’re not yet panicking, but it’s worrying,” one resident told Le Figaro.

Vice-chairman of the Cimiez neighbourhood committee said: "We're wondering what the next step will be.”

The chairwoman, Nathalie Dupont, said that the committee would be organising patrols for each major street in the area in the next week, “to keep an eye on the neighbourhood and ensure that the situation doesn’t get any worse”.

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