A man is questioned by police after admitting to killing a priest who offered him a house while awaiting trial for arson.
The suspect entered a gendarmerie in Vendée, western France on Monday morning, and reportedly told officers that he had killed the cleric, head of a Catholic religious order.
Agents from the Mortagne-sur-Sèvre police station went to the address given by the suspect and found the body of Father Olivier Maire.
The arrested man, 40, is said to be a volunteer Rwandan church guard awaiting trial after being accused of deliberately setting Nantes cathedral on fire in July last year.
After the fire, the man was taken into police custody but released on bail two months ago under a number of conditions of release. Father Mayor, 60, head of the Montfort Missionary Order in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, offered him accommodation while awaiting his appearance in court.
Before the Nantes fire, the man had been refused permission to stay in France and was subject to an expulsion order. His arrest for the arson meant that the order was suspended pending arson proceedings.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted that he was heading to the Vendée department.
Bruno Retailleau, the leader of the opposition party Les Républicains, paid tribute to the priest.
“His death testifies to the kindness of this priest whom I knew well and whose depth of faith I had learned to appreciate. His death is a great loss ”, Retailleau tweeted with a photo of the priest.
The murder came five years after two supporters of the Islamic State killed Father Jâcques Hamel in his church in Normandy in July 2016.
Police gave no details of how Maire was killed, but said there were no suggestions at the moment that he was linked to terrorism.
Father Santino Brembilla, Superior General of the Montfort Missionary Order and friend of the murdered priest, told the BFMV that he was a man of “deep spirituality” and a reference for the Montfortian religious community.
“He was always open to people who needed to be helped and accompanied,” said Brembilla. “It is a tragedy for us because we have lost a person of great value to our Montfortian community. He was a deeply spiritual man. It is a human tragedy. “