Science - October 7, 2004

Students not frightened by fatal stabbing

Last Thursday night, just after closing time, an employee at café Vrijheid in Wageningen was stabbed and killed. A woman working there was badly injured and is still in hospital.

Nobody else was in the café at the time, and a man was arrested quickly afterwards. By coincidence there were a lot of police in Wageningen that night as residents in the Sumatrastraat had to be evacuated because of a gas leak. Apparently the suspect knew the woman he stabbed.

Many students are shocked at the stabbing, but it has not made them more frightened to go out at night. A nutritional technology student lives near where the incident happened, but was not aware of what was going on at the time. ‘A housemate came home a quarter of an hour later than me and did see someone lying on the street. The police were already there and she thought that perhaps it was someone who had drunk too much. The next morning when we heard that someone had been murdered we were shocked, that something like that can happen in Wageningen. I walk past there often,’ tells Hanneke van der Zanden.

Sieneke Stoel lives above one of the cafés in the centre of Wageningen. ‘That a personal feud ends up in a fight can happen anywhere. What happened here is not going to stop me going out. It’s like a psychopath who opens fire on a school – you can’t stop it from happening.’

Two students who also work in bars say they do not feel suddenly more vulnerable. Jeroen van Horen, head of the bar at Unitas, is aware that some visitors see him as a bogeyman. ‘But if I thought about it too much I wouldn’t leave my house. After all I might get run over by a car.’ Van Horen heard about the stabbing very soon after it happened as he was still working at Unitas. SSR student club phoned to ask us to tell people going home not to go through the centre of town. One of the study associations was holding a party at Unitas, and at first we were worried that it was one of them who was the victim.’ On Friday evening at 11 o’clock a minute of silence was held in Unitas, as in all Wageningen cafés. ‘It was so quiet, I was really impressed.’

Erma Ebbinge studies Crop sciences and works at café ’t Gat. She was a little on edge when she went to work on Monday evening. ‘But if you think about it logically, it’s difficult to protect yourself totally against violence. You can turn your bar into a fort, but if someone really wants to get at you they can.’ Ebbinge has worked for four years in the café, and in that time she has been threatened once by someone with a knife when she was walking home. ‘When I go to a café for a drink I feel protected by the people working there and the crowd in there. When I’m working I feel that I have more responsibility and am therefore also more at risk. But I wouldn’t say that Wageningen has become more unsafe as a result of the stabbing.’ / YdH

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