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Skyguide murder suspect makes partial confession

Murder suspect Vitaly Kaloyev says he lost control Keystone

A Russian man arrested in connection with the murder of an air traffic controller near Zurich last month has made a partial admission of guilt.

The Zurich district prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday the suspect had admitted visiting the victim’s home on the day of the attack, in the hope of extracting an apology from him.

The victim, a 36-year-old Dane who worked for the Swiss air traffic control agency, Skyguide, was on duty at the time of a mid-air collision in Swiss-controlled airspace in which 71 people – mainly Russian children – died.

The suspect, Vitaly Kaloyev, lost his wife and two of his children in the July 2002 crash over Überlingen in southern Germany.

Until now he has denied any involvement in the killing.

Lost control

In a statement to the prosecutor’s office, Vitaly Kaloyev said he had spoken to the air traffic controller outside his home on February 24.

He said he could not remember exactly what followed, but admitted he had “lost control” and had “probably” killed him.

The controller was stabbed to death at home in front of his wife.

The 48-year-old Russian was arrested close to the Zurich suburb of Kloten the day after the killing.

Zurich prosecutor Pascal Gossner told swissinfo that Vitaly Kaloyev had sought a meeting with police on Monday.

“He did not rule out that he was the killer,” said Gossner.

“He stated that he had gone to the house of the victim, spoken with him at the scene of the crime and asked the victim to apologise [for the aircraft accident],” he added.

Various witnesses reported seeing the suspect both before and after the attack.

Police later found a knife thought to be the murder weapon.


Swiss air traffic control gave confusing instructions to the pilot of a Bashkirian Airlines plane which contributed to its collision with a DHL cargo plane on the night of July 1, 2002.

Skyguide came in for further criticism when it emerged that only one controller had been on duty at the time.

A number of victims’ families have accepted compensation payouts from Skyguide, while negotiations are continuing with others.

Gossner said Vitaly Kaloyev – whom he desribed as “quiet, aggrieved and sad” – was still being investigated and that it would be several months before a case could be brought to court.

He was moved to a psychiatric unit shortly after his arrest last month.

Michael Witti, a Berlin-based lawyer representing Vitaly Kaloyev, declined to comment on the latest development when contacted by swissinfo.

swissinfo with agencies

July 1, 2002: Bashkirian Airlines jet and DHL cargo plane collide in Swiss airspace, killing 71.
July 13, 2002: the air traffic controller on duty admits network errors were to blame.
June 2003: Switzerland, Germany and Skyguide agree to set up a compensation fund.
November 2003: a first round of compensation reaches the families of 12 Russian victims.
February 24, 2004: the air traffic controller on duty at the time of the crash is stabbed to death.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR