CALGARY — Loved ones say a 85-year-old Calgary man accused of murdering his 80-year-old wife had been suffering from dementia for years.
Siegfried van Zuiden made a brief court appearance today, during which he was ordered to undergo a 30-day mental health assessment at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre.
A row of family friends wept and embraced each other as the frail, confused-looking man entered the courtroom wearing a blue jumpsuit.
The couple’s godson Vince Walker says van Zuiden was a great man who escaped Nazi-occupied Holland during the Second World War and later founded a successful sailboat business in Calgary.
Walker says it was important for he and others close to the family to be in court to show van Zuiden — who went by Fred — that he isn’t alone.
Van Zuiden was charged with second-degree murder on Tuesday after he called police and officers found Audrey van Zuiden dead in the couple’s home.
Gordon van Gunst and his wife bought Glenmore Sailboats from the van Zuidens about 15 years ago and the couple became like second set of parents to them.
“Fred and Audrey were soul mates, they were best of friends, they never left each other’s side,” said van Gunst.
Van Gunst said Audrey was “the rock behind Fred” and would not have wanted him put in a care facility, despite his illness.
“They lived a very full life. They were always on the go. Audrey, I know, would never have wanted anything different, though. The outcome, albiet tragic, wouldn’t have ever changed in her mind.”
Psychiatrist George Duska told court that van Zuiden probably has dementia and had minimal understanding of why he was in court.
He said van Zuiden thought he was there because of something related to a ski accident.
Duska said van Zuiden appears to be pleasant and courteous.
The case is next to be in court Nov. 4.
– The Canadian Press