Media fascinated with ‘the Beast of Rupperswil’

The Swiss press was abuzz Sunday with stories – ranging from the investigative to the speculative – relating to the identity, personal life, motives, and legal situation of a 33-year-old Aargau man arrested last Thursday for the brutal murder of four.

This content was published on May 16, 2016 minutes
Authorities informed the press of the latest developments Keystone

The German-language paper Blick reported on Saturday that the prosecutor’s remand request had been approved ahead of the expected Sunday deadline, crowing: “The Beast of Rupperswil is already sitting in custody!”  

In addition to the facts of the case, the most-discussed topic in the Swiss media is the suspect’s personal history, given that he was a local man who was well known to the community – though the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reported Sunday that his neighbours described him as “introverted”.

The facts

  • A 33-year-old Swiss man residing in Rupperswil, a town of 5,000 inhabitants in canton Aargau, murdered a 48-year-old local woman, her two sons, and the girlfriend of one of the sons on December 21, 2015 before setting fire to their home.
  • Before slitting his victims’ throats, the man forced the woman to withdraw EUR1,000 ($1,130) and CHF10,000 ($10,250) from two local ATMs. He also sexually abused one of the two sons.
  • The suspect has already confessed to the murders, and his fingerprints and DNA were found at the crime scene. He acted alone, did not know his victims, and has a clean criminal record.
  • The arrest, made on Thursday, was the culmination of the efforts of a 40-strong special commission of cantonal police, which led a large investigation that included raids.
  • Authorities have not yet released details about how they finally located the suspect after 146 days of searching.
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According to the German-language paper, the man had been living “unobtrusively“ with his mother and two dogs in Rupperswil, not far from the home of his victims. He was often seen walking with his dogs in the neighbourhood, and, according to the paper “always wore headphones”.

Some media outlets have already released the suspect’s photo and first name, although his full name is still being withheld.

Darker side

But a story in the Sunday paper Schweiz am Sonntag claimed that the killer had a documented interest in violence, due to the face that, "he wrote his graduation thesis about the terrorist Osama bin Laden, and the attacks on New York…[in] a 27-page document entitled, ‘Osama bin Laden's motives for the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001’”.

The Tages-Anzeiger online edition also reported that the man was a coach at a youth football club – a fact that is particularly disturbing considering that he sexually abused his 13-year-old victim before killing him.

On Friday, a forensic science expert told the Tages-Anzeiger: “This case certainly indicates an instance of sex with a child. But it could also be that the man chose his sexual victim randomly".

However, in an interview with news site, former Basel prosecutor Markus Melzl argued: "Clearly, sexual motivation was in the foreground. If it had been about money, there would have been other ways. This is not only unquestionably a paedophile – his actions also show a lack of any empathy”.

The suspect regularly worked with youth in his job. However, on Monday, authorities informed the parents of those children that they had no reason to believe that he had abused anyone else.  

Praise for police

Under the headline “Rupperswil longs for normality”, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper interviewed locals rocked by the tragedy, including Dominik Kunz, chief of the Rupperswil-Auenstein fire brigade: "For many of us, the last half year was a very emotional time…in recent months, firefighters' biggest fear had been that such an act could be repeated.”

The Swiss press also expressed gratitude toward rescue and law enforcement authorities for their dedication in solving the murders.

An online edition of the Aargauer Zeitung reported that police have been applauded by experts and civilians alike. The Tages-Anzeiger also cited the positive reaction on social media by sharing a Facebook post that read “Thanks to all who have worked tirelessly on this case, and who have probably had to make compromises in their private lives”.

The Sunday newspaper NZZ am Sonntag described the “relief” felt by the town of Rupperswil in the midst of grief, noting that the arrest of the suspect has ended “crumbling confidence” in police, due to the fact that the quadruple murder took 146 days to solve.

The investigation was made significantly more difficult by the alleged perpetrator’s squeaky clean police record. Police interviewed over 100 people, examined DNA evidence, and offered a CHF100,000 reward in exchange for information about the case, to no avail.

However, the exact details of how authorities eventually pinpointed the suspect have not yet been released.

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