When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Switzerland

Interview With A Psychopath - Now At Large

Convicted rapist and murderer Jean-Louis B. escaped from his Swiss jail on Monday. “As he talked about his dark past, his eyes lit up”, recalls journalist Fati Mansour from her 1999 encounter with the man considered Switzerland's most dangerous c

Swiss police have released this photo of the fugitive
Swiss police have released this photo of the fugitive
Fati Mansour

Some encounters stand out in a journalist's life. One for certain was my interview with Jean-Louis B., the convicted murderer and rapist who just became Switzerland's most wanted fugitive after escaping Monday from his guards' watch on an outing outside of prison.

It was snowing outside that day in February 1999 when I met Jean-Louis B. inside the gates of the Bochuz prison where this unusual convict was serving his sentence. The prisoner was thought to be the most dangerous man in the country. Authorities had considered all sorts of cures for his persistent violence, from chemical or physical castration (which he refused) to a lobotomy. Finally, the psychiatrists admitted they were powerless.

"B.", who was 53 at the time, entered the visiting room. He was tall and imposing, with very short hair. He wore an earring, and around his neck hung a cross and two medals of the Virgin Mary. This man seemed nothing like the sexual offenders who keep a low profile in prison. Slightly tense, he started talking about himself. He had not lost his accent from the Jura region during these long years in prison. Nor had he lost his sense of humor. He liked to imitate Thorberg's guards in Swiss German.

But the subject of our meeting was serious. At the time, "B." was asking the Swiss justice system to free him at the end of his sentence. Psychological experts had described him as dangerous and incurable, and his request had been opposed in the name of public security. "B." wanted to convince them that he had changed, that he understood the gravity of his actions and that he could now be trusted.

Very quickly, as he talked about his dark past, his eyes lit up. He abandoned his falsely neutral and consensual tone, revealing his lifelong inner revolt. This is the violent streak that worried the experts and caused the authorities so much trouble. In the only language he mastered, jailhouse slang, and using his infallible memory, he talked about himself. In a scary way. His face had a very harsh expression that sometimes became almost childish. This tension is impossible to forget. Especially when I tried to contradict him, or when he looked at me intensely.

Sordid confessions

"I made people suffer without realizing it. I deserve my sentence, but I don't deserve more. I think about these sad stories and I tell myself that everything must have started when I was barely five. I already looked at my mom's ass. Then I met my first wife at a gala at Porrentruy. She is the one who asked me to sodomize her. I got to like it, but she stopped letting me do it. That's when I decided to choose other women. For 20 years, I rebelled against everything. My parents, society, the judges, the psychiatrists who wanted to calm me down with electroshocks and tranquilizers. In prison, I was not scared of going into solitary confinement. Since 1990, something changed. I don't know if I'm still the same man, but I agree to obey the rules."

There was still one subject he would not talk about. The fact that his first victim was no other than his own sister. He had sexually abused her when he was still a minor. He was the only boy in a family of four children.

Then he talked about the woman he met and married in prison. He used the same crude words. "We exchanged little messages when we were both held at the Champ-Dollon prison. She was convicted for fraud. Her letters were more moving than the ones her roommate sent me. She became my idol. She's from Napoli, has three kids. She has some nerve. We had to wait one year before the administration let us meet in private in the visiting room. I love her even if she's obese and has a twisted nose since she fell down a few days ago. The other day, she even hit me. It was the first time a women hit me. Ten years ago, I would have smashed her face."

His future, he hoped would be like this: "I want to live with her and show her the Jura forest of my childhood. I want to find a job to protect the little dignity I have left. And continue painting. I love painting. Especially women's faces." He had – nearly – said it all.

Read the original article in French.

Photo -

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Ideas

A Writer's Advice For How To Read The Words Of Politics

Colombia's reformist president has promised to tackle endemic violence, economic exclusion, pollution and corruption in the country. So what's new with a politician's promises?

Image of Colombian President Gustavo Petro speaking during a press conference in Buenos Aires on Jan 14, 2023

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, speaks during a press conference in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 24, 2023.

Manuel Cortina/ZUMA
Héctor Abad Faciolince

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — Don't concentrate on his words, I was once advised, but look at what he's doing. I heard the words so long ago I cannot recall who said them. The point is, what's the use of a husband who vows never to beat his wife in January and leaves her with a bruised face in February?

Words are a strange thing, and in literal terms, we must distrust their meaning. As I never hit anyone, I have never declared that I wouldn't. It never occurred to me to say it. Strangely, there is more power and truth in a simple declaration like "I love her" than in the more emphatic "I love her so much." A verbal addition here just shrinks the "sense" of love.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest