New Star Blogs

[UPDATED] Trouble at the Mill

New Star South

Rolf Maurer’s home after the lat­est (Oct. 2014) fire­bomb­ing.

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”.