Wed, May 03, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Husband sought after shooting of Swiss skier and her brother

AFP , GENEVA

Reporters on Monday mill about at the chalet where former Swiss skier Corinne Rey-Bellet had been killed in Les Crosets, Switzerland. The former Swiss skiing star was shot to death along with her brother Alain in their parents' home, police said on Monday. Their mothers was hospitalized with serious injuries from the attack late on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

Swiss authorities said on Monday they were hunting for the husband of former ski champion Corinne Rey-Bellet after she was shot dead at her parents' chalet in southwestern Switzerland over the weekend.

Husband Gerold Stadler, a banker, was "probably armed and must be considered dangerous," police in the canton of Valais said in a statement.

Rey-Bellet's brother, Alain, was also killed in the incident in the tranquil Alpine resort of Les Crosets late on Sunday, police added. Her mother was wounded and was gravely ill in hospital.

Rey-Bellet's two-and-a-half year-old son, who was unhurt, and her father, who had left the house at the time of the shooting, were under police protection.

"For reasons that are still unknown, Gerold Stadler opened fire on the three people present, killing Corinne and Alain, and seriously wounding their mother," police said.

Stadler was seen leaving the chalet with a pistol in his hand, they added.

The couple, who lived in Abtwil in northeastern Switzerland, had separated about 10 days ago, police said.

The 33-year-old skier won several World Cup events between 1999 and 2003, and was runner-up in the women's downhill at the 2003 World Championship in before being sidelined by a knee injury.

Olympic and world champion skier Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden joined shocked fans in a huge outpouring of sympathy on Rey-Bellet's Web site.

"What can you say a day like this. The world is not what it should be," Wiberg wrote in a tribute sent from Monaco.

"I just want to give all my strength to the family and especially [her son]. Corinne will always stay in my thoughts as the happy girl she was," Wiberg wrote.

Rey-Bellet was thought to be visiting her parents at the time, Valais police spokesman Renato Kalbermatten told reporters.

Stadler's car was found abandoned some 20km from the parents' home in the town of Ollon.

Roadblocks were set up in the region and forensic experts were combing the crime scene for evidence. More than 20 police officers were involved in the investigation, Kalbermatten said.

In its magazine in 2003, the bank Credit Suisse described how the couple first met when Stadler signed up Rey-Bellet for its sponsorship programme for leading sportsmen and women.

"One lovely day, a private banker from St. Gallen by the name of Gerold Stadler rang at my door," Rey-Bellet was quoted as saying.

"It didn't take much time for me to understand that I wanted a follow-up that was a little more attentive," she added.

Rey-Bellet poignantly described how she was devoting all her energy to her private life following the end of her ski-ing career, setting up a new home for the family in Abtwil, according to the magazine.

By Monday evening, more than 1,000 messages of sympathy were posted on the website of the former skier, who became hugely popular in Switzerland as she battled against bad luck and injury during her career.

"I came to know you as a good hearted person with a big heart. You always had an ear open for your fellow humans ... I am simply utterly stunned," one said.

"I could not believe my ears when I heard the bad news. I wish the whole family ... lots of strength on their now difficult road ahead. May God accompany you," wrote an inhabitant of Abtwil.

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