Bonn After a case of suspected arson, a man from Beuel feels ignored by the police. He accused them of downplaying the case and not investigating it sufficiently. The authorities are investigating his complaint.
It still smells of fire, even in the garden. Next to the driveway there are baskets of melted motorcycle clothing, there are charred shelves. "I've cleared out the burnt stuff, but the smell in the rooms just won't go away." Just like the emotional damage caused by the fire that destroyed Alfred Schmitz's house. He does not want to make his real name public - for fear that something similar might happen to him again. For unknown persons have thrown an incendiary device through the window. But the police, he accuses, play down the case and do not investigate sufficiently.
Thursday, December 19, 5 a.m. Schmitz is sleeping on the top floor of the house where he has lived for almost 40 years. The fire alarm goes off. "At first I thought I left food on the stove," he says. But when he notices that the clouds of smoke are seeping up through the wooden floor from the ground floor, he realizes: There is a fire. He runs outside. From the workrooms he can already see the flames blazing, the windows are pitch-black. Schmitz has connected a high-pressure hose from the previous day. With it he can keep the flames in check until the fire brigade finally extinguishes the fire.
The police arrive before the rescue services - the police headquarter in Ramersdorf is only a few hundred meters away from Dornheckenstraße. The initial assessment by the officers was clear, says Schmitz: "You have an enemy, that was arson.“ And according to his descriptions, the fire brigade also has no doubt that someone wanted to harm him. Had it not been for the smoke detectors, he would probably have choked on the toxic smoke within minutes - the fire would have spread to the entire house.
Nevertheless, the police investigation is making slow progress. Hardly at all, or so it seems. According to Schmitz, the first arson investigators, who will be coming by on Thursday, will only look around superficially, but will be able to reconstruct the events roughly. Presumably an incendiary device flew through the skylight of the entrance door. The recessed entrance is not visible from the street, the property is fenced in. On the ground, magazines and clothing items ignited, which then set fire to the shelves above. The door frames also caught fire, the heat caused the plaster to flake off. Smoke and soot moved into the two adjacent rooms, the workshop and a study.
"I would have expected that extensive evidence would be secured and neighbours questioned", says Schmitz. Because, as he found out, they would have noticed a lot. One neighbour noticed a conspicuous hissing sound during the period of the crime, another reported two voices and a rumble. The rumbling, Schmitz supposes, came from a broken amphora in the garden. "The perpetrators probably climbed over the fence on the remote side of the property and jumped on it." He told the arson investigator the same thing the next day. "The answer was that the police already knew what they were doing." Securing traces like DNA was pointless because it was raining. "But it definitely wasn't raining that day", says Schmitz. He made an appointment with the arson investigator for the following Monday. Because Schmitz had also found an unknown spray can in the anteroom where the fire broke out. The appointment passed by - only days later, after another call, forensic experts came by, but due to the time that had passed, they could not find anything else. There was no public call for witnesses, as normally.
"We take the representation of the victim affected by a fire seriously", says police spokesman Robert Scholten. Schmitz has meanwhile written a letter to police chief Ursula Brohl-Sowa. The complaint will be investigated and answered. "The arson case presented by him will be dealt with by specially trained arson investigators of the responsible commission and finally coordinated with the responsible public prosecutor's office in Bonn", Scholten explains. The fact that there had been no public report on the fire is due to the fact that it is sometimes difficult to cover all the facts of the case given the large number of operations. From the point of view of the police, the fire was manageable and there was no danger to life. The damage to property was estimated at around 3000 euros, as only shelves and newspapers had burned. The question remains open, however, whether and to what extent mistakes were made in the investigation work.
In a first estimate, the insurance company assumes a much higher damage. Because the entire basement would have to be cleared and renovated, it would amount to several tens of thousands of euros. For Schmitz, however, another burden is much worse. "I can hardly sleep at night thinking about what could happen next." The question of who wanted to do this to him, who might have wanted him dead, is with him all the time. That is why the investigators are called upon. But his confidence in the police is shaken. "I will now secure everything with an alarm system."