Police release suspect in French hospital slayings

20th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PAU, France, Dec 20 (AFP) - French police on Monday released without charge a former mental patient arrested in connection with a double murder that authorities have described as "unspeakable" and "barbaric".

PAU, France, Dec 20 (AFP) - French police on Monday released without charge a former mental patient arrested in connection with a double murder that authorities have described as "unspeakable" and "barbaric".

Staff discovered two nurses dead at a psychiatric hospital in Pau, southwest France. One nurse's head was cut off and placed on a television set, and the other had her throat slit.

Police released a former patient at the institute, who was arrested earlier Monday in the nearby Atlantic seaside resort of Saint Jean de Luz, after checking his whereabouts at the time of the crime.

Staff held a minute's silence in memory of the two victims, found early Saturday in a blood-spattered hospital room.

France's President Jacques Chirac called the slayings "barbaric" and ordered ministers to overhaul France's psychiatric health system, notably by providing better treatment for patients and more security for hospital employees.

The nurses, Chantal Klimaszewski, 48, and Lucette Gariod, 40, "were savagely murdered in the performance of one of the most noble and most difficult jobs in the public health service," Chirac said.

Several hundred doctors, nurses and orderlies, many weeping, gathered before the hospital to pay their respects by laying flowers outside the wing where the bodies were found. Dozens of burning candles stood at the entrance to the building.

The hospital's director, Jean-Paul Busch, said the killer had done the "unspeakable" to the victims.

Autopsies established that the two had been attacked overnight Friday by a person wielding a long-bladed knife. The weapon has not been found.

The investigating prosecutor, Eric Maurel, said there had been "no sexual violence nor rape," and that the perpetrator had left by a blood-stained window.

Five people, including another former patient, were arrested Saturday but released the next day without charge.

The grisly act has prompted demands that mental wards have alarm systems directly linked to the nearest police station.

News of the double homicide filled front pages of French newspapers Monday, with articles also highlighting a decline of staff for psychiatric institutions and a rise in the number of patients.

Amid concern raised by some staff members that the Pau murderer may have been a discharged former inmate, Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy announced at the weekend a moratorium on bed-closures in psychiatric units and promised to bring forward a EUR 200 million (USD 265 million) health service reform plan due in February.

A spokeswoman for the opposition Socialist party said "all the people in the region were extremely shocked by this hateful crime," and expressed surprise that hospitals did not already have direct telephone lines to police stations as promised by the interior ministry a year ago.

A union representing health care workers, the CFTC, called for an urgent review of conditions for night staff in hospitals.

But an association grouping France's public hospitals, the FHF, said that "the tragedy which has just happened cannot in any way justify a return to a policy of high security for psychiatry, after this field has been able to move forward over the last 30 years by diversifying its treatments."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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