WARNING: The following story contains descriptions that some readers may find disturbing. Discretion is advised.
Quebec City police say a 39-year-old man has been arrested in connection with what they are describing as an attempted murder of a woman in her 20s.
The incident happened on Friday evening when police were called to Arago Street West at around 9 p.m. after a man set a woman on fire before fleeing the scene.
Paramedics rushed the woman to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Police say she suffered serious burns to her face, back and hands.
“We fear for her life,” police said in a written statement on Saturday.
The suspect was arrested Saturday morning at around 11:35 a.m. on Girardin Street in Drummondville, roughly 150 kilometres west of Quebec City.
Quebec City police spokesperson Etienne Doyon said the suspect was the victim’s ex.
Doyon said a warrant had been issued for his arrest. He was wanted for attempted murder and aggravated assault.
He is being held by provincial police in Drummondville.
Investigators with Quebec City police were en route to interview the suspect.
Doyon said police had yet to interview the victim herself.
He confirmed reports that the woman’s mother and children had witnessed the attack.
“The children were placed in the care of the grandmother,” he said, adding that police made sure they were being provided with the necessary support.
Martyn Allard, who says he’s the victim’s neigbour, told Global News he was standing on his second-floor balcony Friday night when he saw someone running by.
“I thought he’d dropped a burning torch on the street,” he said, adding he only realized it was a person when she started running and screaming, “I’m on fire, I’m on fire, someone lit me on fire!”
Allard said he called 911 and then rushed to the woman’s side to try and help her.
“I was yelling at her ‘Madame get on the ground, madame get on the ground,’ but she was burning up like a torch,” he said.
He described a strong smell of gasoline as he approached the victim and said he ripped her burning clothes off as he waited for a neighbour to bring a blanket.
Allard said he grasped the victim’s hands as she appeared wobbly and talked to her to keep her alert.
“She was talking about her kids,” he said.
— With files from The Canadian Press