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POLICE

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains
The Grand Combin massif mountain near Verbier, Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”

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CRIME

Switzerland jails 84-year-old bank robber

Swiss authorities have sent an 84-year-old bank robber to prison. The man, who robbed the same bank twice, had hoped his age would see him avoid sentencing.

Switzerland jails 84-year-old bank robber

A court in the Swiss canton of Lucerne has jailed an 84-year-old man for two years and four months for two bank robberies stretching back across the past decade. 

The man, named in Swiss media as Willi P, has been given a partially suspended sentence and will only need to serve six months. 

The man robbed a bank in Meggen in 2012 and in 2017, stealing around CHF13,000 in total. 

He threatened the bank’s employees with a folding pocket knife placed inside a plastic bag to look like a gun. 

The man avoided jail in 2021 when the case was brought to court, with the judges saying he was too old. 

This time, the cantonal court disagreed. 

“According to the case law of the federal court, even a relatively old age does not in principle justify a particular sensitivity to punishment, which must be taken into account to reduce the sentence,” the court said. 

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

Willi P was remorseful, telling the media he was “heartbroken” by what he had done, telling the press his wife had no idea about the robberies. 

“I’m really sorry for everything and felt heartbroken. Afterwards I said to myself: Hey, you are stupid! Why do you still have to do something like this at this age?”

The man pleaded with the court not to sentence him, saying “I’ve been punished enough with my poor health. I am sorry.”

While the court noted that due to the man’s advanced age he may die in jail, this was not enough of an exceptional circumstance to prevent the sentence. 

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