Vitaly Kaloyev

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Vitaly Konstantinovich Kaloyev (Russian: Виталий Константинович Калоев, born 15 January 1956) is an architect and deputy minister of housing from North Ossetia, Russia, known for his 2004 murder of Peter Nielsen in the Swiss town of Kloten.

Kaloyev was born in Vladikavkaz. His family died aboard Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937, which collided with DHL Flight 611 over Überlingen, Germany on 1 July 2002. Nielsen, an air traffic controller handling traffic when the collision occurred, was freed from any responsibility in the following inquest and he retired from further air traffic work afterward. However, Kaloyev held Nielsen responsible, and became a hero in his native Caucasus republic following the murder. Kaloyev was released from prison in November 2007 and shortly after was appointed deputy minister of construction of North Ossetia–Alania.

Murder of Peter Nielsen and aftermath[edit]

Skyguide memorial to the aviation accident and murder of Peter Nielsen.

Peter Nielsen was stabbed to death in front of his home in Kloten,[1] near Zürich, on 24 February 2004.[2] Police arrested an Ossetian man, Vitaly Kaloyev, within a few days. Kaloyev, an architect working in Barcelona since 2002, expected to meet his wife, Svetlana Kaloyeva (Светлана Калоева), and two children, 10-year old Konstantin Kaloyev (Константин Калоев) and 4-year-old Diana Kaloyeva (Диана Калоева), who were not a part of the Bashkirian student group. The family of Kaloyev died on Flight 2937. Yuri Kaloyev, the brother of Vitaly Kaloyev, reported that the man suffered a nervous breakdown following the loss of his entire family, especially since he was one of the first relatives to arrive at the crash site.[3] Vitaly Kaloyev participated in the search for the bodies and located a broken pearl necklace owned by his daughter, Diana. He also found her body, which was intact, trees having broken her fall. Her mother and brother fell 36,000 feet; Svetlana's body landed in a corn field, and Konstantin's body hit asphalt in front of an Überlingen bus shelter.[4][5]

Returning to his home in North Ossetian city of Vladikavkaz,[5] Kaloyev spent the first year after the accident lingering at the graves of his family and building a shrine to them in his home. At the memorial service for the first anniversary of the tragedy he asked the head of Skyguide about the possibility of meeting the controller who had been responsible for the disaster, but received no response. Kaloyev then hired a Moscow private investigator to find Nielsen's address outside Zürich, before traveling to the former air traffic controller's home in Kloten (Nielsen had resigned from his job after the accident). After a short argument on Nielsen's doorstep Kaloyev stabbed him several times, and Nielsen died of his injuries a few minutes later in the presence of his wife and three children. Investigators found Kaloyev in his hotel room at a Kloten Welcome Inn, apparently in shock.[6] He said he had no memory of what he had done and was taken to a mental hospital, where he was evaluated to determine if he was fit to stand trial.

Answering questions from the judge, Kaloyev said the plane crash above Lake Constance had ended his life. He said his children were the youngest on board Flight 2937, so there was no need for him to identify the bodies. Kaloyev said he was crushed by the loss of his family: "I have been living in the cemetery for almost two years, sitting behind their graves," he said.

Kaloyev presented a document received from a law firm in Hamburg dated 11 November 2003. It was an amicable agreement in which Skyguide offered him 60,000 Swiss francs for the death of his wife and 50,000 francs for the death of each of his two children. In return, Skyguide asked Kaloyev to decline any claims to the company. The document infuriated the man: he decided to meet the company director Alan Rossier and Nielsen in person.

"Apparently he did not expect that he would have to answer for the results of his work," Kaloyev said. "He murmured something to me. Then I showed him some pictures of my children and said: 'They were my children. What would you feel if you saw your children in coffins?' I was infuriated about Skyguide's initiative to haggle over my dead children."

Kaloyev said he wanted Nielsen to apologize to him for the death of his family. "He hit me on the hand, when I was holding the envelope with the photographs of my children. I only remember that I had a very disturbing feeling, as if the bodies of my children were turning over in their graves," he said. He added that he did not remember what he did afterwards.

The region where Kaloyev came from has a tradition of blood feuds which are settled in a manner parallel to the legal system.[7] After 710 days on remand, on 26 October 2005, Kaloyev was sentenced to eight years in prison.[8] In 2007, he was paroled by the court, but the prosecution appealed the decision.[9] On 23 August 2007, the court accepted the appeal, so that Kaloyev remained in prison.[10] On 8 November 2007, Kaloyev was released from prison, because his mental condition was not sufficiently considered in the initial sentence.[11] After his release Kaloyev returned to Ossetia. He was enthusiastically met by a crowd in the airport[citation needed] and very soon appointed to deputy minister.[12] The positive reaction and appointment in Russia was met with a negative reception in Switzerland.[7]

The Swiss government asked Kaloyev to repay the costs of his incarceration, about US$ 157,000. Kaloyev has refused to do so. When Kaloyev traveled to Germany to attend the 10th anniversary memorial, he was detained by German authorities, saying that he was on a Swiss watch list. Russian consular authorities protested the man's detainment. The Germans released Kaloyev after Russian diplomats agreed to accompany him.[7]

Cultural references[edit]

American rock band Delta Spirit recorded the song Ballad of Vitaly, featured as the closing track on their 2010 album History From Below, chronicling Kaloyev's story.

German futurepop band Edge of Dawn alludes to Kaloyev's story and mentions his name in the song "The Flight (Lux)", which appears on their 2005 EP The Flight (Lux) and later their full-length 2007 album Enjoy the Fall.

References[edit]

External links[edit]