Christ statue vandal 'ashamed'

2010-04-23 12:21

Rio de Janeiro - A labourer who brazenly painted graffiti slogans on Rio's landmark Christ the Redeemer statue turned himself in to police on Thursday, saying he was ashamed of his act.

Paulo Souza dos Santos, 28, a wall-painter by trade, confessed to Brazilian media on Wednesday that he was one of the men who officials had been hunting since last week for daubing phrases like "When the cat's away, the rats will play" on one of the statue's outstretched arms.

"Afterward I woke up and felt like I was a drug dealer or something, hunted like a criminal," Souza said.

"I'm a family guy, I didn't expect that. I know I did something wrong. I asked for God's forgiveness and I also ask it of everybody," he said.

A 26-year-old accomplice remains at large.

The graffiti sparked anger in Rio, which sees the statue as its most important cultural icon. A million tourists visit it each year.

The monument is currently clad in scaffolding for renovation work, and the graffiti was daubed on it when it was cut off by landslides that killed at least 256 people in and around Rio.