Man arrested after decades of mysterious "Yule Goat" arson fires
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The Swedish police has arrested a 40 year old man suspected of setting the famous "Gävle Christmas Goat" on fire.
As a the mythological companion of Saint Nicholas, "Yule Goats" are a sort of stuffed straw buck goats figurines which have have been a symbol for Christmas in Sweden since the 17th century.
In the city of Gävle, an enormous public statue, "Gävlebocken", has been erected in the town square on December 1st since the year 1966. The statue is made from natural straw on a steel frame and is highly flammable, a fact which as caught the attention of pranksters ever since.
The first time the Gävle Yule Goat burned down was on New Years Eve 1966/67, a month after it was erected. Just like this year, the destruction of the goat brought down as much laughter as tears, and local authorities, police and fire services have tried to catch those responsible.
Most Christmas seasons since 1966, the Gävle Yule Goat has been attacked by arsons, and despite desperate attempts to guard the flammable statue, the buck goat has usually not survived the holidays intact.
Every year until 2016, it became a sort of "sport" to set the goat on fire at some point during the holidays. People have been setting up bets based on how long the "yule goat" would survive.
The Gävle Yule Goat has even made it into the Guiness Book of Records as the world´s most sabotaged public monument in modern history. The only time the goat was left in peace was reportedly between 2016 and 2020 when either no arsen attempts were made, or authorities were able to stop the attempts, or put out the fire in time.
Although many people find the arson spectacle a quite amusing "tradition", bringing as much joy and symbolism as the object itself, many locals in Gävle are very upset when the city´s famous public holiday monument is lost to fire, year after year.
For a handful of years, residents of Gävle could enjoy their yule goat in peace. However, on Friday December 17, 2021, someone managed to approach the goat unseen, and light it on fire once again.
"The tradition has been restored", became the cheering response of many Swedes on social media the following day when the news broke of the goat´s destruction. Others, mostly Gävle locals, cursed the arson and demanded that those responsible be brought to justice.
The Kalmar resident in his 40s who has now been detained on suspicion of having burned down the Gävle yule goat was charged on Thursday, accused with grave public destruction. The man denies being responsible for the crime.
On Thursday morning, prosecutor Micael Dahlberg filed an indictment against an 40-year-old man from Kalmar in the south of Sweden, who is suspected of having set fire to "Gävlebocken" on the night of December 17, 2021.
The man was arrested not far from the fire scene after witnesses from the municipality's home care services for the elderly saw him standing and changing clothes inside the fenced-in area of Gävle Castle, a known landmark in the center of the city.
The prosecutor has presented several pieces of evidence against the 40 year old man. Amongst other alleged evidence, surveillance images show a person setting fire to the goat's legs. According to the prosecutor, the video footage also shows that the person's face in the video belongs to the arrested man.
The preliminary investigation shows that the accused Kalmar resident is a well-known person in Gävle. Several of the security guards who are being questioned by the police have met him before in various contexts.
The police who arrested the suspect testify that he smelled strongly of fire and kerosene. He also had a lot of soot on his hands. The man was also wearing a similar shirt that can be seen on the person who lights the goat on fire in the surveillance images.
During questioning, the man explained to his defence that he had walked past a smaller goat which also caught fire and claims this is why he smelled of smoke. He explained the soot on his hand on his alleged pipe smoking habit.
The man admitted that there are some similarities between the clothes and the shoes he had worn and those seen in the surveillance video. The man however still maintains in all interrogations that he is not the person recorded in the videos.
Cover Photo: Wikipedia License. Photo of the huge straw Yule goat in Gefle Sweden. The picture was taken at noon december 21, 2009. Author: Tony Nordin