Suspect in Rotterdam shootings had troubled past, targeted victims

By Bart Biesemans

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) -A medical student suspected of shooting three people dead in Rotterdam had a history of psychotic behaviour and a conviction for animal abuse, and he likely targeted his victims intentionally, Dutch police and prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they are still investigating the suspect’s motive in the shooting that took place on Thursday, but confirmed on Friday they had previously notified the Erasmus University Medical Centre (EMC) of his problematic behaviour.

EMC chairman Stefan Sleijfer said in a statement that the warning was taken seriously and the suspect was denied a doctor’s license unless he underwent psychological evaluation and was declared fit to practice medicine.

Law enforcement sources confirmed the 32-year-old suspect’s name as Fouad L., with his surname not publishable under Dutch privacy laws. He is due to appear before a judge on Oct. 3, the public prosecutor’s office said.

The suspect is being held on suspicion of shooting a 39-year-old woman who lived near his home and her 14-year old daughter, and then a 43-year old doctor who taught at the EMC, where the suspect was a student. All three died.

The suspect has a lawyer but the lawyer has not been publicly identified and does not wish to have contact with the press, prosecutors said. It was not clear how the suspect may plead.

Shootings are rare in the Netherlands and the incident shocked residents and drew an outpouring of condolences ranging from locals to the country’s king and queen.

Well-wishers brought flowers to both locations. Dutch media reported that the 14-year-old victim had a twin sister who survived unharmed.

The doctor who died is survived by a wife and child.

“It’s terrible. I couldn’t stop crying yesterday,” neighbour Roos Bonnier said. “That this sort of excessive (violence) can happen.”

The prosecutor’s spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of a letter from prosecutors to the EMC circulating on Dutch media. It described the suspect having “psychotic behaviour” and alcohol troubles as well as complaints from neighbours over his treatment of animals. The letter’s date was not visible.

“I presume that the information above will contribute to the decision as to whether the person concerned should be eligible for a general doctor’s diploma,” the letter said.

Images of students fleeing and patients being evacuated from the Erasmus Medical Center have been playing on Dutch television news since the incident took place late on Thursday afternoon.

The hospital was operating normally on Friday but medical classes had been cancelled.

The suspect allegedly also started fires that broke out at the woman’s home and at the EMC before he was arrested shortly after fleeing from one of the buildings at the hospital complex.

Rotterdam’s chief prosecutor Hugo Hillenaar said on Thursday the suspect had a history of police run-ins.

He was convicted in 2021 over abusing his pet rabbit according to a report in AD newspaper covering the case at the time. Other alleged abuse incidents involving his dog, fish and birds did not result in convictions.

(Additional reporting by Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Toby Chopra)