Death of Belgian family in Switzerland: ‘Father left farewell note’

Prosecutors looking into the case of a Belgian couple and their 13-year-old son who were found dead in their home in Apples in Switzerland's Vaud canton on Monday have indicated it may have been a murder–suicide.

Death of Belgian family in Switzerland: 'Father left farewell note'
File photo: Valais Police

Speaking to Geveva daily, Tribune de Genève, the chief prosecutor for the La Côte region in canton Vaud, Jean-Marie Ruede, a farewell note from the father had been found.

In the letter the father, a manager with a pharmaceutical firm in Neuchâtel, indicated “life was no longer possible for him” at least from a professional point of view, the official said.

“He changed firms a year ago and he wasn’t happy there,” Ruede added.

While the authorship of the letter has yet to be formally established, investigators are now working on the theory that the father, who had been on sick leave for some time, had killed his wife and son before taking his own life.

The fact that the father was found in the ground floor of the family home while his wife and son were found upstairs is also possible evidence that this was the case, the prosecutor said.

Maude said he believed the deaths may have been caused by an overdose of medication. Autopsies of the bodies of the woman and her son had revealed no evidence of firearm or knife wounds.

The bodies of the three family members were found on Monday evening after concerned residents contacted police saying they had not heard anything from their neighbours.

The time of death is not yet known, but the La Côte prosecutor said the family had not been seen since last Thursday while the latest social media posts from the family dated back to the same day.

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Swiss bishops plan new tribunal after sexual abuse revelations

Following shocking sexual abuse revelations within Switzerland's Catholic Church, the Catholic dioceses' coordinating body said Saturday it planned to create a tribunal to discipline clergy members who break ecclesiastic law.

Swiss bishops plan new tribunal after sexual abuse revelations

The Bishops’ Conference of Switzerland said it was “devastated” after a study identified almost a thousand victims and widespread efforts to cover up abuse.

In a statement, it said it had determined concrete measures to strengthen safeguards and help ensure victims are heard and they and their families receive justice and are supported.

Among the key measures, the conference said it wanted to “create an ecclesiastic criminal and disciplinary tribunal for the Church of Switzerland”.

“Swiss criminal laws will of course continue to prevail and criminal prosecutorial authorities will always be solicited for any cases of abuse or other infractions committed in the ecclesiastic setting,” it stressed.

The new tribunal, it said, would instead handle sanctions needed against members of the clergy who violate ecclesiastic law.

The conference said it was in the process of setting up a meeting with Vatican authorities about how to bring the tribunal into being.

The statement comes after results were released earlier this month from a year-long inquiry by researchers at the University of Zurich, identifying 921 victims of sexual abuse within the Church since 1950.

The study also determined that most cases either went unreported or documents containing information were destroyed.

The study, which will be completed by a further three-year research campaign, comes after similar efforts to uncover clerical abuse in other parts of the world.

According to the initial findings, 74 percent of victims were children, while a total of 510 people, almost all men, were found to have committed the abuse.

The Conference of Bishops also announced a separate investigation earlier this month following accusations that four current and two former bishops had covered up cases of sexual abuse by clergy.

Saturday’s statement said that in addition to the planned tribunal, the conference was working towards creating a national centre tasked with receiving and gathering victim accounts.

It also guaranteed that researchers would have access to all the necessary archives, and that no further documents would be destroyed.

And it said it was standardising a requirement for an in-depth psychological evaluation for all seminary, clergy and layman positions.

“In the face of the abuse and the suffering that has taken place, the Swiss Bishops will never be able to do enough,” Saturday’s statement acknowledged.

“Continually adapting procedures to render justice to victims and to ensure abuse does not happen again is therefore a top priority.”