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CRIME

Murderer escapes from Swiss psych hospital

A man convicted of murdering a young girl in the canton of Ticino in 2009 has escaped from a psychiatric clinic and is still at large 48 hours later.

Murderer escapes from Swiss psych hospital
The escaped killer. Photo: Aargau cantonal police

The 22-year-old man, named by police as Kris Van Ooijen, fled the Königsfelden psychiatric hospital in Windisch in the canton of Aargau in the early hours of Saturday, cantonal police said in a statement on Saturday.

Police launched a search for the fugitive at 3.30am but admitted they had “no clues about his whereabouts”.

Van Ooijen was convicted in 2013 of killing a 17-year-old Vietnamese girl when he, too, was still a teenager.

After connecting online, the killer and his victim met in person in August 2009 when Van Ooijen battered the girl to death with a piece of wood and hid her body in a forest in Sessa, in the canton of Ticino. It wasn’t until June 2010 that the victim’s body was found by a hiker.

Convicted by Aargau’s youth court, Van Ooijen was judged to have a severe mental disorder and was sentenced to four years in prison before being transferred to a closed psychiatric ward.

He had only recently been transferred to Windisch from a juvenile correctional institute in Uitikon and had refused to be treated, saying he was innocent of the crime, reported 20 Minutes.

According to one witness, Van Ooijen could now be back in Ticino.

Speaking to local news portal Tio on Sunday, the receptionist of a hotel in Locarno said the man may have come looking for a room on Saturday afternoon.

“He spoke German and appeared very strange,” said the receptionist, who refused to give him a room in the hotel.

“Only later did I read the articles about the fugitive from Aargau and I recognized his face,” she said.

Aargau cantonal police told the paper they do not exclude the possibility that the man may be in Ticino, but “have received many reports”.

The situation has angered the family of the victim.

Speaking to Blick, her brother said: “People like this should stay in prison forever. We now see exactly what this therapy for murdering my sister has been good for.”

In a statement, the Königsfelden psychiatric hospital said it was “closely collaborating” with the authorities investigating how the killer could have escaped from the ward.

The hospital stressed its security measures but said the ward “was not designed as a high-security system” and consequently there “remains a risk of a breakout.”

The man used violence to flee, it said.

Anyone with information should tell Aargau cantonal police by calling the 117 emergency number.

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CRIME

FACT CHECK: Do foreigners commit more violent crimes than the Swiss?

Around 25 percent of the Swiss population is of foreign origin. Is the crime rate really higher among them?

FACT CHECK: Do foreigners commit more violent crimes than the Swiss?

Crime rates among foreign residents is a frequent political talking point in Switzerland, particularly among the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP). 

Police in Zurich were forced to provide the nationality of all offenders after an SVP-supported referendum in January 2021 required them to do so

However, new statistics show that most crimes in Switzerland are committed by foreign nationals, including those of a violent nature.

Foreigners — including permanent residents, asylum seekers and tourists — commit more offences with a violent nature than native Swiss, according to data published by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) in October 2021.

Of the 270 attempted homicides registered in Switzerland in 2020, 99 — almost 33 percent — were committed by Swiss people. The other cases are attributed to foreign nationals.

The FSO also found that Swiss citizens were responsible for less than half of the cases in which a serious bodily injury was inflicted on a victim: 317 out of the total of 712 registered acts, which translates to 45 percent; the remaining 55 percent of these crimes were committed by foreigners.

In both cases this is a higher percentage than that of foreigners as a part of the Swiss population. 

According to Switzerland’s Federal Office of Statistics, foreigners made up 25.1 percent of the population at the end of 2020. While this figure does not include tourists, it is still higher than the 33 percent and 55 percent figures listed above. 

READ MORE: Where in Switzerland do all the international residents live?

The study didn’t altogether absolve the Swiss.

“Foreigners commit violent crimes more often, but that doesn’t mean that the Swiss don’t do the same”, Baier said.

“There are many Swiss who think they have a right to hit anyone who looks at them in a wrong way”.

For instance, in the past six years, serious physical injuries have been inflicted by Swiss people more often than by foreign nationally, especially among those under 24 year of age, FSO reported.

In 2020, nearly half of all crimes were committed by Swiss people; however, these figures have to be put in perspective: since foreign residents constitute only around a quarter of the total population, an above-average number of offenses were committed by foreigners, even among young suspects.

Why do foreigners have a higher rate of violent crime in Switzerland?

There are two explanations why people of foreign origin resort to violence more often that their Swiss counterparts.

According to Dirk Baier, violence researcher at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, the lower level of income and education among foreign residents is one of the reasons.

“This economic disadvantage can lead to a corresponding reaction: what you cannot buy, you can steal”, he told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes.

Baier said that these factors were far more important than if someone was a foreigner or not. 

“If you consider young people who have roughly the same attitudes and social conditions, you no longer see any differences in the violent behaviour of Swiss and foreigners”.

Living conditions of these economically disadvantaged groups is also a contributing factor.

“They live in smaller apartments and often with several siblings. Those who spend a lot of time in public space are also more likely to get into conflicts that can escalate into violence”.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: Which Swiss cities have the highest crime rates?

Baier added that “the increased propensity for violence among foreigners has nothing to do with biology or genes. It is created by external circumstances – and consequently something can be done about it”.

This is echoed by statements from the Swiss government on crime rates of all forms (i.e. not just violent crime)

“The differences between foreigners and Swiss are relatively small when one takes into account the different age and gender structures. If one only considers the resident population (i.e. leaves out asylum seekers and tourists or travellers passing through), the differences are almost completely absent.”

How can this be prevented or curbed?

One way to counteract this trend, Baier said, is to introduce children with a migration background to the education system at an early stage, for example through language lessons.

“Anyone who understands and communicates in the language of the country in which they live will be less likely to resort to violence”.

There are also other social-cultural factors at play.

“This includes the family situation in which someone grows up. If he or she has  a form of upbringing that is characterised by the dominance of the father who uses violence himself, the child is socialised accordingly”, Baier noted.

“An honour to be defended or the protection of the family also made a number of people of foreign origin react more quickly to aggressive stimuli”, he added.

Baier said the government could do more, but was often held back by a cultural reluctance to intervene in family matters. 

“Switzerland could still do a lot here, the reluctance to interfere in family matters is still very great.”

READ MORE: Why do foreigners ‘commit more violent crimes’ than the Swiss?

What nationalities are most implicated in Swiss crime statistics?

People from these 10 countries committed the most crimes, FSO found:

1. Portugal: 1014

2. Italy :866

3. Other nationalities: 827

4. Kosovo: 656

5. Germany: 589

6. Turkey: 435

7. France: 398

8. Serbia and Montenegro: 385

9. North Macedonia: 328

10. Spain: 289

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