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POLICE

Family of four die after plunging from Swiss balcony

Four members of a French family plunged to their deaths Thursday from a seventh-floor balcony in the Swiss town of Montreux, leaving a teenager seriously injured.

Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP
A file photo of a police sign in front of a hotel in the Swiss town of Montreux. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Five members of the same family, a 40-year-old man, his 41-year-old wife and her twin sister, along with the couple’s eight-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son went off the balcony of a building in the heart of Montreux, police said.

All of them except the son died when they hit the ground, while the boy was taken to hospital in serious condition, the Vaud cantonal police said.

All of those involved were French citizens, it said.

Police said the incident occurred after two officers showed up at the building, across from Montreux’s famous Casino, to execute a warrant for the father in connection with the home-schooling of one of the children.

The officers knocked on the door and heard a voice ask who they were.

After they answered, the apartment went quiet.

After failing to make contact, the officers left, but “in the meantime, a witness called the police to say that people had fallen from an apartment balcony,” the statement said.

“We do not know yet whether they fell or if this drama was due to other circumstances,” police spokesman Jean-Christophe Sauterel told the RTS public broadcaster.

An investigation has been opened, but police have already concluded that the incident happened “behind closed doors”, and that no one else was in the apartment at the time, he said.

‘Like a bad movie’ 

The officers at the apartment door had been there to execute a warrant for the father in connection with the home-schooling of the son, police said.

They knocked on the door and heard a voice ask who they were, but once they answered, the apartment went quiet, it said. After failing to make contact, the officers left, but “in the meantime, a witness called the police to say that people had fallen from an apartment balcony,” the statement said.

The bodies were found at the foot of the building, near Montreux’s famous Casino at around 7:00 am (0600 GMT). “I saw five bodies around 10 metres from the building, three on one side and two on the other,” one neighbour told the Tribune de Geneve daily.

“It was difficult to understand what I was seeing. It was like a bad movie.” Sauterel said the witness who called had seen the family members hit the ground, and was receiving professional support.

A number of other people connected with the drama, as well as first responders had also been offered counselling, he said.

The family were all French citizens who had been living in Switzerland for “several years” and had resident status, he said.

“We know that this was a rather reserved family, with little contact with the outside,” Sauterel told AFP, adding that they had had no run-ins with the law beyond the issue around the son’s schooling.

That case, he explained, had surfaced because the family had failed to respond to requests for information from school authorities, which are routine when a child is home-schooled. “Police were asked to pick up the father so he could explain the schooling situation of his child,” he explained.

According to the Tribune de Geneve, neighbours said the father appeared to have been working from home. The mother was a dentist who had worked in Paris, while her twin sister was an ophthalmologist.

Home schooling in Switzerland

Home schooling is heavily restricted in Switzerland, with some cantons banning the practice outright and others regulating it heavily. 

Homeschooling is more popular in the French-speaking part of the country. 

Of the 1,000 children who are homeschooled in Switzerland, approximately 600 of them are in the canton of Vaud. 

Vaud and neighbour Neuchâtel are considered to be one of the most permissive of homeschooling in Switzerland. 

In these cantons, you only need to alert the authorities if you plan on homeschooling your children – although there have been recent signs this will be further restricted in future. 

EXPLAINED: What are the rules for homeschooling children in Switzerland?

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POLICE

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.

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