Father of air-crash victims guilty of revenge killing

Kaloyev, a Russian engineer, lost his wife and two children when two aircraft collided over southern Germany in July 2002, killing 71 people. Eighteen months later he tracked down Peter Nielsen, 36, the air traffic controller he believed was responsible for the crash, and stabbed him to death in front of his family.

A court in Zurich found the 48-year-old Russian guilty of premeditated killing. Under Swiss law, premeditated killing ranks between murder and manslaughter, with a maximum sentence of 20 years. Kaloyev has already served 600 days in jail.

"This is an extremely mild sentence and I will seriously consider appealing," Zurich's chief prosecutor said. "I cannot be content with eight years." He had wanted 12 years.

Kaloyev agreed the evidence indicated he "probably had" killed Mr Nielsen, but he claimed he could not remember the attack. On Tuesday, he said repeatedly he had not intended to kill anyone, saying all he wanted was an apology. The native of North Ossetia refused to stand for the verdict yesterday and said before he was led away: "I have forgotten how to live."

As he left, he turned and smiled and waved at his supporters who packed the room, including North Ossetia's president.

Throughout his two-day trial, Kaloyev looked at photographs of his smiling 10-year-old son, four-year-old daughter, and wife who were killed in the crash. He said he felt pity for Mr Nielsen's three children

Although psychiatric reports suggested he was responsible for his actions, defence lawyers had sought a three-year sentence for manslaughter, claiming Kaloyev was suffering an emotional blackout when he stabbed Mr Nielsen. But judges dismissed the plea.

Kaloyev's world collapsed in July 2002 when a Bashkirian Airlines Tupolev 154 carrying his wife and two children collided in mid-air with a DHL Boeing cargo plane over the German town of Überlingen.

Mr Neilsen, a Dane who worked for the Swiss aircraft monitoring company Skyguide, was alone on duty at Zurich air traffic control at the time. He was responsible for guiding the aircraft through Swiss-controlled air space.

Investigators found Mr Nielsen had not been told that the collision avoidance system was not fully working that night. But he did manage to warn the pilots they were on a collision course only 43 seconds before the two aircraft smashed into each other.

The accident caused outrage in Russia after the Swiss authorities appeared to cover up staff and technical problems at Skyguide and blamed Russian pilots for the accident.

A total of 45 children died in what was Germany's worst civilian air disaster. Most of the children were on their way to Spain for a holiday. The wreckage was spread over an area covering 35 square kilometres.

Kaloyev, who was working on a building contract in Spain at the time, took the next available flight to Germany and was the first relative at the scene.

He found the body of his four-year-old daughter, Diana, virtually unscathed as her fall from 36,000 feet had been broken by trees. "She was carried to earth by an angel," Kaloyev said at the time. The mangled corpse of his son, Konstantin, was on Tarmac in front of a bus shelter and the barely recognisable body of his wife Svetlana, 42, was found days later in a field of maize. "I cannot live any more," Kaloyev said then. "I simply exist."

After the tragedy, Kaloyev stopped work, refused to shave and constantly wore black. He turned the family home in the Caucasian town of Vladikavkas into a shrine dedicated to his dead wife and children. Photographs show their beds covered with children's dolls, a schoolboy's chessboard, and boxes of his wife's favourite scent. The engineer used his life savings to pay for an elaborate tombstone displaying portraits of his family.

State prosecutors said Kaloyev began to think of seeking revenge for the deaths the year after when he attended a memorial service in Überlingen and became incensed because Skyguide was accepting only partial responsibility for the crash.

The engineer hired a Russian detective who traced Mr Nielsen. On 24 February last year, Kaloyev, still dressed in black and clutching photographs of his wife and two children, turned up at the air traffic controller's home outside in Zurich and rang the bell. Mr Nielsen opened the door. There was a short argument before Kaloyev pulled out a Swiss-made "Ranger" knife and stabbed his victim repeatedly in the chest.

Yesterday Kaloyev told the court his bundle of photographs had fallen to the ground and had made him feel as if his children were being "thrown around in their coffins". He said he was overcome by rage and could not remember what happened after that.

Mr Neilsen died from his wounds within minutes later as his three children watched him helplessly.

"I went to Nielsen as a father who loves his children so he could see the photos of my dead children and next to them his kids, who were alive," Kaloyev told the court.

Prosecutors in Germany and Switzerland are continuing investigations against Skyguide staff in an attempt to establish whether they can be prosecuted for negligence. Skyguide has accepted full responsibility for the crash and asked relatives of the victims for forgiveness.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick