SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — German police have arrested a suspect in the rape and killing of a television journalist from Bulgaria whose work highlighted corruption in the East European country, officials said Wednesday.
Bulgaria’s prosecutor general, Sotir Tsatsarov, confirmed the arrest of Severin Krassimirov, a 21-year-old Bulgarian citizen.
Prosecutors in the northwestern German state of Lower Saxony said the suspect was arrested Tuesday evening outside the city of Hamburg on a European arrest warrant. Prosecutors will examine whether he can be extradited and apply to have him held in formal custody.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said investigators had found DNA evidence on the clothes and body of Viktoria Marinova, who was raped and strangled on Saturday in the northern town of Ruse.
Bulgarian media reported that Krassimirov’s mother lives in Germany. The Interior Ministry said that he left Bulgaria early Saturday afternoon, crossing the bridge at Ruse over the Danube into Romania.
“There is physical evidence to link to the murder,” Marinov said Wednesday. He said Krassimirov, a resident of Ruse, had a criminal record for scrap metal theft.
The minister said investigators had spoken to Marinova’s family and friends and “there is no apparent link to her work.” Tsatsarov said the evidence suggested it was “a spontaneous attack, not premeditated.”
However, he added that investigators were examining “all possible lines of investigation.”
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov offered condolences to her family and thanked investigators for their work.
However, he said he would withdraw his support for a German member of the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, a leading candidate to become the next head of the European Commission, because of tweets he made associating the death of Marinova with those of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak. Both were killed because of their investigations into corrupt officials.
On Wednesday, Weber tweeted: “Bulgarian authorities have acted swiftly and effectively. We have full confidence in the Bulgarian authorities to find justice for the family and loved ones.”
Marinova hosted a show last month featuring two investigative journalists who were detained for their work on suspected fraud involving European Union funds.
While Marinova didn’t appear to have been closely involved in the fraud investigation, her show touched on a sensitive subject in Bulgaria, where corruption is endemic. The Balkan nation, which joined the EU in 2007, was ranked 71st on Transparency International’s corruption list last year.
Joining the bloc opened an enormous source of possible new funding for Bulgarian infrastructure projects or other programs designed to bring the nation up to EU standards.
Teodora Barzakova in Ruse, Bulgaria, Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania, and Geir Moulson In Berlin contributed to this report.