A man in Germany has been arrested and charged with murder more than 30 years after an arson attack on a shelter for asylum seekers in the city of Saarlouis. A young Ghanaian had died of severe burns and smoke inhalation.
A 50-year-old German national, identified as Peter S., was arrested in Saarlouis in western Germany on Monday, April 4. He has been charged with murder, attempted murder and arson causing death in relation to an attack on an asylum seeker shelter more than 30 years ago, which killed a Ghanaian man, Samuel Kofi Yeboah, and injured two others.
Prosecutors say that on the evening of September 18, 1991, Peter S. had met with a group of right-wing extremists in a Saarlouis bar where they had talked about several racist attacks that had happened that month in Hoyerswerda in eastern Germany. In the early hours of September 19 he is said to have gone to the asylum center, poured petrol on the staircase and set it alight.
The fire spread quickly through the building's stairwell and reached the top floor where Yeboah was asleep. The Ghanaian suffered severe burns and smoke inhalation while trying to escape, and died hours later in hospital.
Two other residents escaped by jumping out of windows, leaving them with broken bones. The other 18 people living in the building managed to get out unhurt.
Yeboah had been working as a caretaker in the hostel, a former guesthouse called the White Rose. According to the Amadeu Antonio foundation, a German anti-racism NGO, he had been a farmer in Ghana before coming to Europe.
Saarland Police Chief Norbert Rupp on Monday apologized for failures which had led to the case being dropped. "I am relieved that this terrible act finally seems to have been cleared up after more than 30 years," Rupp said in a statement.
The investigation into the attack had initially been dropped because police were unable to find a suspect. It was renewed three decades later after a special unit uncovered problems in the investigation procedures.
"I apologize on behalf of the State Police HQ for the fact that deficits in the police work at the time obviously led to the investigations being dropped," Rupp said in the statement. "Something like this must not be allowed to happen again," he added.
Deadly attacks continue
There have been hundreds of fatal attacks on asylum seekers in Germany, including arson attacks on refugee shelters, since the 1990s. One such attack in the city of Lübeck on January 17, 1996 killed 10 asylum seekers and injured another 38, some seriously.
Although the number has been declining, according to reports in 2021, there is on average at least one attack on a refugee reception center in Germany every week.