|Police divers recovered 22 urns from Lake Zurich, after being alerted to the ash containers by divers, who retrieved 13 urns. (Walter Bieri/ Associated Press)|
Swiss officials seek source of urns in lake
Focus falls on assisted suicide
GENEVA — Swiss authorities are investigating a macabre discovery: dozens of urns filled with human ashes stuck in the mud beneath Lake Zurich.
The surprise find — by divers searching for their boat’s sunroof — is drawing attention to some uncomfortable aspects of assisted suicide, a practice permitted in Switzerland but that is coming under increasing scrutiny.
Zurich police won’t say whether they have evidence directly connecting the urns to Dignitas, a Swiss group that has helped hundreds of people — including Americans, Britons, Germans, and French — take their lives in recent years.
“That would be pure speculation,’’ said Wolfgang Bollack, spokesman for Zurich’s environmental department.
But The Atlantic just reported similar burials conducted by Dignitas founder Ludwig Minelli. In a profile of him last month, the magazine said that Minelli stores the urns until he has enough to fill up his car, then dumps them at night into Lake Zurich.
Soraya Wernli, a former Dignitas employee, recounted a similar story in 2008. She described dumping urns into the lake as a common practice and said hundreds were under the water.
Minelli said “they would dissolve in the water, that they were urns made of tons of clay,’’ Wernli told TeleZueri.
Attempts to reach Minelli and Wernli were unsuccessful and Dignitas declined to comment.
The police investigation began last week after the muddy, encrusted urns were discovered.
Zurich authorities say the lake urns poses no public health concern. But the disposals are illegal without a permit.