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Doctor Who Chopped Up Sister-in-Law Commits Suicide

May 15, 1995

GENEVA (AP) _ A prominent gynecologist who murdered his sister-in-law, chopped up her corpse in his bathtub and scattered the body parts in a forest, hanged himself in his prison cell Monday.

In a country where violent crime is rare, Dr. Marcel Walther earned lurid tabloid headlines over the past week as ``Doctor Death.″ Spicing up the story were allegations that he was a Jekyll-and-Hyde character who charmed some patients while abusing others, and reports of his jet-set lifestyle.

Walther’s arrest earlier this month also prompted new investigations into the death of his first wife in 1989 in a mysterious fire and the earlier disappearance of one of his colleagues.

Guards on the morning breakfast round discovered Walther’s body in his cell in a prison in Bern. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, police said in a statement.

Walther, 50, had tried to commit suicide last week and had been under increased surveillance. Police said he hanged himself with pieces of clothing but refused to elaborate.

The gynecologist was arrested in his weekend mountain chalet May 4 and he later confessed to murdering Beatrice Steger, the sister of his second wife. Investigating magistrate Peter Zihlman said Walther beat, then shot Ms. Steger the night before in his luxurious downtown Bern apartment, then cut up her body in the bathtub. He placed the limbs in garbage bags and spread them around in a nearby forest.

Police were alerted by a someone strolling through the forest who discovered one of the bags. Not all the body parts have been found and police are continuing their search.

The motive for the murder remains unclear.

Police spent the weekend digging around Walther’s chalet in the village of Vauffelin after a neighbor was suspicious that earth seemed to be collapsing in one part of the garden. Nothing was found but investigations will continue, authorities said Monday.

The mass-circulation SonntagsBlick newspaper speculated Sunday that the corpse of Peter Gisin, a doctor who disappeared in 1980, was buried near the chalet. Gisin was selected in preference to Walther for a senior medical post, the newspaper reported.

Authorities are also looking anew into the death of Walther’s first wife, Kathi, whose body was discovered in the couple’s charred vacation home. Investigations into possible arson closed inconclusively.

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