UPDATE 10/28/2014: The Vancouver Police Department has released pictures of the arsonist, and are appealing to the public for help in identifying him: Police Hot on Trail of Arsonist.
At 4 AM in the morning of Friday, October 10, someone threw a Molotov cocktail onto the front porch of New Star publisher Rolf Maurer’s home while he slept inside. The sound of the bottle hitting the door woke him; he climbed out his bedroom window onto a roof above the back deck, from which he was able to descend by a ladder quickly provided by neighbours. He was unscathed, despite the fact that the house quickly filled with thick acrid smoke created by the excelerant, which likely contained diesel fuel.
Fortunately, Mr. Maurer’s front porch is literally visible from Firehall No. 19, one block away across Jones Park; firefighters put out the fire before it reached the house’s frame, limiting the damage to smoke and superficial charring.
This incident was the fifth attack on New Star or Mr. Maurer since late winter 2012. On March 7, 2012, a firebomb was thrown into New Star’s office through a window. Two nights later, a house in Mr. Maurer’s neighbourhood superficially resembling his was similarly attacked by an arsonist who hurled a Molotov cocktail through the picture window. No-one was hurt.
In the early morning hours of April 22, 2013, another firebomb attack on Mr. Maurer’s residence while he was home set his rear deck ablaze; that fire was put out by firefighters before it could spread to the house. And a couple of hours before dawn on Labour Day, September 1 just past, New Star’s offices were hit by an arson attack identical to the March 2012 attack.
All evidence points to the five attacks not only linked to each other, but to an ongoing business dispute between New Star Books and a certain party. However, the police have not been able to make any arrests, let alone lay charges.
Arson presents special difficulties for investigators. Because the fire usually destroys any evidence that might link to an individual, the arsonist pretty much has to be caught red-handed. And even if that happens, any link between the person actually setting the fire, and the party on whose behalf he is acting, must also be established. Anyone taking on such an assignment is not a casual criminal, and already knows the rule to dummy up, and what the consequences might be if they don’t. Arson crimes are usually solved because a citizen steps up and brings something hidden to light.
Questions might also be asked about the individuals tasked with throwing the firebombs. Molotov cocktails are the weapon-of-choice during a gang turf war being fought in South Vancouver. Are the arsonists being told that their target is a civilian and not another gang member; or are their bosses pretending they’re just soldiers in this gang war? Criminals claim to have a “code” of their own; whoever is behind the New Star attacks is violating their own code, by using their gang connections to settle a personal score that has nothing to do with “the Game”.