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Dutch murder accused being treated for schizophrenia in Kashmir

Srinagar, June 1 (IANS) A Dutch national accused of murdering a British woman tourist here last month is being treated for schizophrenia, but is proving to be a "headache" for the hospital authorities due to his insatiable hunger for pizzas, an official said Saturday.

Richard De Witt, 43, was arrested by police on April 6 on suspicion of murdering a 23-year old British tourist Sarah Groves in a houseboat on the Dal Lake in Srinagar. He had been living in a room in the houseboat adjacent to the victim's and had gone missing after the crime.

De Witt gave confusing answers to investigators and a team of doctors was called in to examine him. The doctors said he was schizophrenic, a condition marked by distortion of perception and hallucinations.

"He was admitted to a Srinagar hospital for a psychiatric condition after we obtained court orders to do so," a police officer here said.

While other inmates refer to the Dutchman with respect, as "sahib", authorities have been pushed to the end of their tether by the man's constant demands for pizza and cold drinks.

"Armed guards have been deputed to keep a round-the-clock vigil on him. He has been demanding pizza and cold drinks regularly, and his hunger for these doesn't seem to have an end. Although he is cooperating with us as regards taking medicines etc, one can never be quite sure when the next sudden outburst would be," a doctor treating him said, seeking anonymity.

"He says an agent of the Dutch government is spying on him. We have asked the authorities to arrange to shift him to NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences in Bangalore), which would be much better equipped to deal with such patients on a long-term basis," the doctor said.

Police arrested Richard De Witt April 6, the day the tourist was murdered. Earlier that day, he had gone missing from the houseboat, leaving all his belongings behind.

Police said De Witt is usually talkative, but quiets down when asked of the crime. He had, on two occasions, said he had murdered the British girl because he believed she was a Dutch agent spying on him, a police official said.

A senior police officer said: "We have asked doctors at the psychiatric hospital to analyse his condition. We have to be sure that his schizophrenia is for real, not just an act to escape capital punishment."