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Police solve enigma of racist attacks

Prosecutor Thomas Weltert speaking at the news conference in St Gallen

(Keystone)

Police say a mentally ill woman has partially confessed to conducting an eight-month campaign of racist abuse against a family in eastern Switzerland.

The victims – a doctor, his African wife and two children – received threatening letters and their home was attacked on a number of occasions. They are now emigrating to South Africa.

At a news conference on Friday, it was revealed that the 43-year-old woman had admitted writing the letters but denied attacking the couple's property in Unterwasser, canton St Gallen.

The authorities stressed that the affair, which prompted widespread media coverage, was not evidence of "systematic racism" in the region.

The story came to light in November and provoked an outcry across German-speaking Switzerland.

Negative headlines painted Toggenburg as a hotbed of racism and some tourists cancelled skiing holidays. An anti-racism demonstration was held, while politicians were urged to take prompt and decisive action.

Tyres slashed

The family received 17 letters, including one threatening to burn down their house unless they left the village. Their home was daubed with paint and the tyres of their car slashed.

Local prosecutor Thomas Weltert said the suspect's motives were hard to fathom.

Police say the woman is now in hospital but is not in a position to answer questions.

More than 40 people were questioned during the police investigation and 24 were asked to provide DNA samples. Police even offered a reward of SFr10,000 ($7,758) for information.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

A doctor, his African wife and their two children in eastern Switzerland received anonymous racist letters and suffered damage to their property from May.

On Wednesday police arrested a 43-year-old mentally ill Swiss woman living in the area.

The case provoked widespread media coverage. The family is leaving to go to South Africa next year.

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