Unidentified men set fire to Lahti's Mukkula shopping center on a September night in 2018. Part of the building was completely destroyed.
In court, an astonishing surveillance camera video emerged showing how the arson started. The CCTV footage is from behind the building, from the front door. The video is of exceptional quality.
However, the video and any other evidence presented were not enough to court. The accusation of destruction fell because the court felt there was no absolute certainty about the guilt of the accused.
The prosecutor said the men were able to identify the video. The court disagreed.
Even surveillance data on the time of the incident did not support or exclude that the accused were in the vicinity of the Mukkula shopping center at the time of the fire. The men themselves denied being there. Also, the witness statements were not sufficient to prove to the court.
- There is a serious suspicion of guilt. The accusation must therefore be dismissed, the Päijät-Häme District Court stated.
This is how the events began
The video shows the men arriving at the back door. One covered his face with a commando hat, the other man had a hoodie over his hood.
The men carried a canister containing a flammable liquid inside. It was spread around the back door. The man in the commando hat lit the liquid on fire. The man acted so enthusiastically that his partner did not run out of the situation in time. The trousers of the hooded man caught fire.
The fire spread to the Audi behind, which was destroyed. The fire also spread rapidly to the premises of the building. The authors left the scene. A passerby noticed the fire and reported it to the emergency center. The fire caused millions of damage.
Although the charge of a fire in the Mukkula shopping center fell, both men were convicted of other crimes.
The Päijät-Häme District Court sentenced a 29-year-old man to four days' imprisonment for four counts of aggravated assault, two thefts, attempted theft, malpractice and possession of another object or substance suitable for harm. When the man's remand period was taken into account, his sentence was deemed to have been served. Among other things, the man drank beer, kept the knife visible in a public place, and broke one window.
Janne Olavi Lahtinen, 35, was sentenced to 2.5 years' imprisonment for damage and destruction. He set fire to a small apartment building in Lahti last May. The five-room building was destroyed and rendered unusable. The damage is at least around EUR 200,000. Lahtinen also tried to set fire to a Lahti kiosk building without success.
The judgment issued by the Päijät-Häme District Court on Wednesday is not final.