Madeira arsonist condemned to 14 years in jail

Almost a year since he started fires in Madeira that killed three people, devastated hundreds of homes and caused over 157 million euros worth of damage, 24-year-old local man Paulo Gonçalves has been condemned to 14 years in jail.

The charges to which Gonçalves pleaded guilty were negligent homicide and arson.

Gonçalves has been held in preventive custody since his arrest last summer.

As newspapers reported at the time, he appears to have started the fires that projected Madeira onto world news headlines with nothing more than a cigarette lighter, after a morning of heavy drinking and smoking hashish.

Known to police, Gonçalves was suspected at the time of having been behind another major fire on the island in 2011.

As a result of last summer’s fire death toll, a petition was raised calling for maximum prison terms (25 years) for arsonists – irrespective of whether the blazes they start take people’s lives.

As of today, that petition has raised over 54,400 signatures.

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