Father 'saw black' as he killed air traffic controller

A RUSSIAN who lost his wife and two children in Germany's worst aviation disaster went on trial in Switzerland yesterday for killing the air traffic controller he held responsible.

Vitaly Kaloyev, 48, lost his family when a DHL cargo plane and a Russian passenger jet collided in Swiss-controlled airspace over southern Germany on 1 July, 2002.

He is charged with the premeditated killing of Peter Nielsen, the only air traffic controller on duty at the time.

Under Swiss law, this charge ranks between murder and manslaughter and carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Prosecutors have asked for a 12-year sentence.

"I went to Nielsen as a father who loves his children, so he could see the photos of my dead children and next to them his kids, who were alive," Kaloyev told a packed courtroom in a monotone voice. "Everyone can make mistakes, but these are my children," the trained architect and construction engineer said.

The Russian allegedly paid a detective to find out Nielsen's address and confronted him at his home near Zurich airport on 24 February, 2004, stabbing the Dane to death in front of his wife and three children.

Kaloyev told the court that since the deaths of his wife and children, aged ten and four, he had lost the will to live.

He said when he confronted the air traffic controller, he wanted nothing more than an apology, but Mr Nielsen rejected the gesture.

"I saw black and it was as if the bodies of my children turned in their grave," Kaloyev told the court.

He has made a partial confession, but argues the stabbing was not premeditated and that he cannot remember committing the crime.

The collision over the German village of Ueberlingen killed 69 people travelling on a Bashkirian Airlines flight from Moscow to Barcelona. Two DHL pilots also died.

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