July 16, 2004

Police arrest garbageman in multiple-murder case

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Venezuelan police said on Friday they had arrested a garbageman suspected of killing eight homeless people as they slept in the streets of Caracas, after discovering all the murders were committed along his daily collection route.

The victims were killed over the last month at night by an attacker, dubbed the "Crusher" by the local press, who used heavy paving stones or rocks to bash in their heads or chests.

The killings of seven men and one women, aged from 27 to 44, "occurred on the route of this garbage truck, one after another," Henry Zerpa, the head of Venezuela's violent crime police task force, told Reuters.

Zerpa did not provide any more details on the suspect and said the investigation was ongoing.

Police launched their probe when the first bodies were discovered in late May. Undercover agents took to the streets disguised as homeless people to try to crack the case.

Violent crime is common in Venezuela, where more than 60 percent of people live in poverty despite the vast petroleum riches of the world's No. 5 oil exporter.

More than 2 million in the nation of 25 million are unemployed and dozens of people are killed each week in the poor neighborhoods built on the hills that ring Caracas.

Copyright 2004 Reuters