CALGARY — The Crown says a second-degree murder charge against a Calgary senior accused in his wife’s death has been withdrawn following his death.
Fred van Zuiden was found unfit to stand trial in the death of his 80-year-old wife Audrey, whose body was found in their home in October 2016.
Court heard he had dementia and therefore could not understand the charge against him or even recognize his lawyer.
Van Zuiden was 88 when he died at a secure care home in Camrose, Alta., on Jan. 6, but loved ones had hoped he would pass away without the murder charge attached to his name.
Crown prosecutor Ken McCaffrey says he withdrew the charge as an administration step.
He says he would have done so sooner had there been guarantees that van Zuiden posed no risk.
“This is a very heartbreaking case and I certainly would have stayed the charge or withdrew the charge earlier if I had had those guarantees,” McCaffrey said Monday.
“But from my perspective, the primary focus is the protection of the public.”
McCaffrey said he hasn’t dealt with a case like this in his 26 years as a criminal lawyer and other prosecutors from across Canada have called asking about it.
The van Zuidens were married nearly six decades. They ran a sailboat business together and had no children. Close friends have described them as soulmates and have said he never would have intentionally hurt his wife.
“The family has now come to find closure during these difficult few years,” van Zuiden’s nephew, Robert Vlessing, said in a statement.
Van Zuiden, who was born to a Jewish family in Holland, chronicled his flight from the Nazis during the Second World War in his memoir: “Call Me Mom: A Dutch Boy’s WWII Survival Story.”
“We will remember Fred for the full and accomplished life he had with Audrey and as the man of passion, bravery, honour, and respect that he truly was,” said his godson, Vince Walker.
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press