On the night of January 8, the 19th-century bell tower of the Reformed church in Héderfája (Idrifaia, Ederholz) burned to the ground. According to fire fighters, it was most likely arson. On Sunday, Hungarian news agency MTI reported that Maros County police took an 18-year-old suspect into custody.
The fire department of the nearest town, Dicsőszentmárton (Târnăveni, Sankt-Martin), was alerted to the fire at 3:00 a.m. on Saturday. Fire fighters managed to contain the fire but could not save the belfry, as flames had spread quickly throughout the centuries-old wooden structure. The bell tower was completely destroyed, with the two bells in it even melted.
On Saturday, the local Reformed priest Csaba Nagy told Székelyhon news portal that there had been previous attempts of arson and the perpetrators were never discovered. He also said that there are no inner conflicts between the members of the community, thus it was hard for him to find an explanation for this deliberate destruction. He mentioned that the surveillance cameras of the nearby school had recorded movement around the bell tower that night, but the footage did not prove to be useful in identifying any suspects.
The village of Héderfája is located in Maros (Mureş) County of Transylvania, on the right bank of the river Kis-Küküllő (Târnava Mică, Keine Kokel). According to the 2011 census, the locality had 677 residents, and most of them (96 percent) declared themselves to be of Hungarian ethnicity.
On Sunday, MTI reported that Maros County police suspected that the arson was committed by an 18-year-old local. He was taken into police custody, and the proceedings for his preliminary arrest were initiated. The fire department estimated damage to be EUR 50,000. The priest told MTI that he had been informed by the mayor of the municipality (that is, Küküllőszéplak/Suplac) that the county police had the abovementioned suspect in their custody.
Csaba Nagy also related that the 18-year-old is a student of a vocational school in Dicsőszentmárton and a member of a neo-protestant congregation. The young man moved to Héderfája – his father’s native village – six years ago. According to the priest’s information, he had already admitted the crime of arson. His motives are yet unknown, but the parish priest said that he has been drawn to fire ever since childhood and lately has been playing video games that display fires.
Csaba Nagy also told MTI that ever since last November, there have been several – some successful, some failed – attempts of arson in the village. Last week, for instance, the greenhouse of the parish’s caretaker and the barn of the suspect’s family were engulfed by flames. The community has begun to fear further fires, and the priest hopes that the police’s action of taking the young man into custody will calm those fears.
Title image: Charred remains of the former 19th-century belfry in Héderfája