Elderly Calgary man found not fit for trial in slaying of ‘soulmate’ wife
An 85-year-old Calgary man who was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife has been declared unfit to stand trial.
The body of Audrey van Zuiden, 80, was found on Oct. 4 in the home she shared with Fred van Zuiden, her husband of 56 years.
At a court appearance on Friday, a Judge Bob Wilkins accepted a doctor’s recommendation that the well-known Calgary author be found medically unfit to stand trial.
In October, forensic psychiatrist Dr. George Duska testified that van Zuiden probably has dementia.
Duska told court that when he examined van Zuiden, the man thought he was being spoken to by a doctor because of a decades-old skiing accident, and did not understand where he was or why he was at court.
Friends relieved there won’t be a trial
Vince Walker, a friend of the couple, says he is relieved to know that the elderly man won’t have to go through a murder trial.
“That is comforting and that is one piece of the outcome we were expecting,” he said. “We were hoping for obviously more. We’re really interested in what facility he’ll be in, or what level of security he requires, what our visitation is going to be like, what’s his quality of life is going to be like.”
Van Zuiden was known for writing a bestselling memoir about hiding from the Nazis for two years as a boy in occupied Holland during the Second World War.
Family friends say they suspect he has been suffering with dementia for a long time, but believe his wife wanted to care for him herself.
They described the couple as “soulmates” who were deeply in love.
Gordon Van Gundst says he often visits van Zuiden at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatric Centre, where his elderly friend is being held in custody.
“Fred is Fred. He’s loved by everyone in the facility, he’s very well taken care of. But you’d always like a little more. He’s doing well, considering,” he said.
A court hearing will be held on Dec. 13 to determine the next step for van Zuiden. Defence lawyer Alain Hepner says he will seek to have the second-degree murder charge dropped.
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