Calgary

Dementia worsens as elderly man accused of killing wife awaits word on whether he'll stand trial

An 85-year-old Calgary man with suspected dementia is deteriorating rapidly as the court weighs whether he's medically fit to stand trial in the killing of his "soulmate" wife, his lawyer says.

Hearing booked for Jan. 6 for judge to decide whether Fred van Zuiden mentally unfit to stand trial

Fred van Zuiden once wrote a best-selling memoir about the two years he spent dodging German soldiers in Nazi-occupied Holland in World War II. He is charged with second-degree murder in his wife's death, but a forensic psychiatrist told court van Zuiden is mentally unfit to stand trial. (Facebook)

An 85-year-old Calgary man with suspected dementia is deteriorating rapidly as the court weighs whether he's medically fit to stand trial in the killing of his "soulmate" wife, his lawyer says.

Fred van Zuiden, 85, was charged with second-degree murder after his wife of 56 years, Audrey van Zuiden, was found dead inside their home on Oct. 4.

Earlier in December, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Ken Hashman found van Zuiden mentally unfit to stand trial after evaluating the elderly man for two months.

On Tuesday, a hearing was booked for Jan. 6, during which Hashman will testify about his diagnosis.

A judge must accept Hashman's findings before van Zuiden is officially declared mentally unfit to stand trial.

Until then, he continues to be held at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre. 

Defence lawyer Alain Hepner asked Provincial Court Judge Bob Wilkins to excuse van Zuiden's attendance at the January hearing because court appearances cause the elderly man "great distress" and because his condition is worsening.

Another forensic psychiatrist, Dr. George Duska, has also previously testified that van Zuiden likely has dementia.

Fred and Audrey van Zuiden were 'soulmates'

Van Zuiden is known for writing a best-selling memoir about hiding from the Nazis for two years as a boy in occupied Holland during the Second World War.

Family friends say they suspect he has been suffering with dementia for a long time, but believe his wife wanted to care for him herself.

They described the couple as "soulmates" who were deeply in love.

The couple did not have children, but had many close friends, several of whom attend each court appearance in support of van Zuiden.

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