Elderly woman sentenced for Basel boy stabbing

The seven-year-old boy was walking home alone at lunchtime on March 21 from his Basel primary school when he was approached by the elderly woman and stabbed with a kitchen knife in the neck. Keystone / Georgios Kefalas

The 76-year-old woman who stabbed a seven-year-old boy to death in Basel in March 2019 has been convicted of murder.

This content was published on August 11, 2020 - 18:21
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The woman, who according to an expert suffers from a chronic mental disorder, will remain in detention for an indeterminate period, the Basel Criminal Court ruled.

In his sentencing, the court president said all the conditions for a murder conviction had been met. The woman, however, is not responsible for her acts and is therefore not punishable, he declared.

The court decided to detain the woman as it believes she may commit new acts of violence due to her psychological condition. Under Swiss law, if a court considers the person to be dangerous, they can be kept in prison for an indeterminate period. 

The boy's murder caused shockwaves across Switzerland. The seven-year-old was walking home alone at lunchtime on March 21 from his primary school when he was approached by the woman and stabbed with a kitchen knife in the neck.

He was found by a passer-by and helped by the boy’s teacher who was cycling past. Emergency services were called to the scene, but the boy died from his injuries shortly after undergoing emergency surgery at the University Children’s Hospital Basel.

The Swiss suspect, who lives in Basel, left the scene and told several people by text message about what she had done, before turning herself in to the police one hour later.

A psychiatric assessment showed that the woman was not criminally liable for her actions.

Reading the sentence on Tuesday, the court president said that the woman had killed the young boy in cold blood “like you kill a lamb” and had acted purely out of self-interest.

Threats

The Basel prosecutor had argued that the woman had planned the attack meticulously. According to the indictment, the woman suffers from a chronic delusional condition, a very serious form of querulousness. The disorder developed gradually since 1977 and was diagnosed by three psychiatric experts before the crime.

Her deceased partner’s legal troubles, in which she was allegedly involved, were the trigger for this psychological problem, the court said. This involved the couple being forcibly evicted from their apartment in Allschwil in 1992; they later found themselves temporarily homeless.

For over 40 years, the defendant wrote increasingly virulent letters to the local authorities that filled ten banana boxes, according to the indictment. From 2002, these letters often included death threats.

From 2016 onwards, threats became more frequent. She often referred to an act of violence that could occur at any time if her demands for the return of her property were not met, the indictment said.

The woman’s lawyer opposed her internment, arguing in favour of therapeutic measures. The defendant, meanwhile, denied suffering from psychological problems and said that she was not irresponsible. At the end of the hearing on Monday, she spent her 60 minutes of speaking time criticizing the authorities for their shortcomings.

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