Seven-year-old Luca was found injured, partially naked, lying on the snow and suffering from hypothermia in Veysonnaz, in the south of Switzerland. He had gone for a walk with his three-year-old brother and his six-month-old German shepherd dog.
Two years later, investigations concluded that the dog was to blame for the boy’s injuries and the case was closed. But the family never believed the animal to be guilty, and continued to pursue the case.
After years of fighting with justice authorities in Canton Valais, the Federal Court has now granted the family the chance to have a new psychologist talk to Luca’s younger brother and to interpret drawings he made after the incident.
In 2005, the child made a drawing at school depicting what his parents say are the events that unfolded on the day Luca sustained his injuries. In the illustration, Luca is about to be beaten up by “bigger people.”
The younger brother drew himself behind a tree while one of the three aggressors hits the dog with a stick. The family’s home appears at the end of a path. On top of the drawing, the child wrote: “I was afraid when my brother was hit.”
The family consulted a neuro-paediatrician about the drawing, who said that “he could not have described and recounted a scene so well if he had not experienced it himself.”
When Luca’s parents initially asked the courts in canton Valais to reopen the case, the public prosecutor’s office assigned Canadian psychologist Hubert Van Gijseghem to interpret the sketch. The family, which lives now in Italy, refused since the specialist would have needed to speak with the child before submitting his conclusions but did not speak Italian.
The Federal Court agreed with Luca’s parents, saying the language issue was “problematic” since “communication with the child is essential in a case like this.”