On June 16, 1993, Federal Councilor Hans Luethi was murdered. This incident had a profound effect on Switzerland. Since the deadly shot was fired, two months have passed. The political repercussions of this deed and its aftermath have been fully discussed. The culprit, Wilhelm Gess, was arrested three days after the murder and is currently being held in Bern's municipal prison pending trial. To this date no commentary, TV inquiry or university analysis has managed to fathom this inexplicable act. This book will attempt to do so indirectly, by way of Gess's family background. Even though this book does not offer a solution to the enigma, it is the only authoritative report on Gess's act. My involvement with these accounts of witnesses, published here for the first time, was quite extensive, although I tried to convey their taped depositions as faithfully as possible. In transcribing the statements, I concentrated on rectifying grammatical errors and achieving an even flow of language. Wherever possible, I deleted digressions and unnecessary repetitions. That some of the statements are occasionally contradictory is in the nature of the case.

My manipulation began with the choice of people I interviewed. I wanted to concentrate on the people closest to the culprit, Gess, his immediate family: his wife Sonya, his parents, Eveline and Franz—who are separated, his brother August and his grandmother Nadine. I also interviewed a few witnesses who were in the Restaurant National in Bern at the time of the murder, or who encountered Gess immediately before or after.

Wilhelm Gess has remained silent. There are enough voluble murderers who commit their crime so that they can talk and be listened to. What induced Gess to murder and yet remain silent? Is it what has been referred to, in relation to the crime, as "Gessian obstinacy? " Does he not want to speak, or can't he? Does he have nothing to say? Is there nothing to say? Does the crime speak for itself? Does he himself not know why he committed this murder? Is he plotting some obscure media strategy? Gess serves the media by serving them nothing. His silence is more voluble than most detailed declarations. We cannot even exclude that he is publicity hungry. No one has recently appeared in the papers more often than Wilhelm Gess. Every one of his pictures, every word written about him, every supposition, amplifies the enigma of his persona.


Time was short. I began the interviews on June 23—a week after Luethi's murder, and four days after the arrest of his murderer—and I had two weeks at my disposal before this book was to go to press.