Psychiatric nurse beheaded in French double murder


December 20, 2004

Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy called a crisis meeting and announced tightened security measures following the horror killing of two female nurses at a psychiatric clinic in southern France.

Douste-Blazy visited the crime scene and met with the clinic staff.

The minister, a medical doctor who previously managed a clinic, conceded there was a "violent residue" in psychiatric institutions and promised to improve safety.

One of the nurses was decapitated and the other fatally stabbed by one or more patients.

Police arrested five male suspects, all patients, following the twin slayings.

The two nurses were on night duty when their murderers arrived.

The body of the beheaded nurse was found on Saturday morning in a day room with her head propped on top of a television. The other victim was found in a corridor lying in a large pool of blood with multiple stab wounds.

"The double murder occurred in a pavilion in the psychogeriatric ward with 21 Alzheimer patients," said public prosecutor Eric Maurel.

The murder weapon was believed to have been a saw or knife.

Traces of blood showed that the killer or killers tried to open the locked main gate without success.

They then smashed a window to escape through the 42-hectare park surrounding the clinic.

Four patients undergoing treatment for alcoholism were arrested after calling police and talking about the crime.

They were said to be between 30 and 40 years of age. A fifth suspect was identified as man with a violent history who had been released from the clinic only days prior to the killings.

Both victims were mothers aged about 40 years.

A stunned colleague said: "Christmas is coming now and the children no longer have mothers."

"That could have happened to any of us," he added.

Another clinic staff member said: "It is worse than a horror movie. You have the feeling of being on the other side of the screen."

A total of 1200 people, including 40 doctors and psychiatrists, work in what has been described as an overcrowded psychiatric clinic with 460 beds.

Both victims had taken part in a recent protest against job cuts.

Their colleagues and trade unions said the government was partly responsible for the killings as security precautions were still insufficient.

A man brandishing a saw is alleged to have broken into the clinic on an earlier occasion.

Threats of violence in the clinic are everyday occurrences, according to employees who said patients were sometimes discharged prematurely due to the overcrowding.