Police released CCTV stills of the incident, in which a 64-year-old woman was killed
5:15pm UK, Sunday December 18, 2011
A man is being questioned by police after a woman was burned to death in a lift by an attacker in her New York apartment building.
Doris Gillespie, 64, was ambushed, sprayed with flammable liquid and then set alight. The incident was caught on CCTV.
A 47-year-old man, who has not been charged, walked into a police station overnight smelling of petrol and implicated himself, police said.
The attacker was seen entering the lift dressed as a pest controller, wearing gloves, with a protective mask on his head and a container on his back in Brooklyn, New York.
He then went to the fifth floor and lay in wait for his victim, who was returning home from shopping.
I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been doing this a long time.
New York police officer
The attacker is reported to have first glued shut the locks on the woman’s apartment and then doused the lift door with accelerant.
As she opened it, the man sprayed her in the face, then covered her from head to toe in flammable liquid.
Ms Gillespie crouched down and threw her hands up to her face, as shopping bags dangled from her arms.
Having cornered the woman in the lift, he then ignited a Molotov cocktail – a wine bottle filled with accelerant with a rag stuffed in its neck.
The video went white as the woman was set on fire using the bottle’s wick.
The man then threw the bottle inside the lift, after crouching behind the door “as if he was anticipating an explosion,” one policeman said.
Two surveillance cameras were filming the attack as he again sprayed Ms Gillespie’s burning body with the ignitable liquid before fleeing down the stairs in the Prospect Heights area.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been doing this a long time,” a detective was quoted as saying in the New York Daily News.
Ben Olson, 37, who lives on the sixth floor, said: “It’s horrific. I can’t believe it’s true.”
Mr Browne would not comment on the motive in the killing.