Over 200 tips on cinema murders; suspect has mental health problems, family says

2019 Groningen movie theater murders
Police investigate a double homicide at a movie theater in Groningen. Oct. 26, 2019Photo: Politie Groningen

The police received over 200 tips regarding the murders of couple Gina (55) and Marinus (56) at a Pathe cinema in Groningen on Saturday, the police said on Twitter. Suspect Ergun S. has psychological problems and his family was working on getting him admitted to a mental health clinic, his sister said to newspaper AD.

In a post on Twitter, the police thanked the public for their help in this investigation. "You had concrete information for us and there were also callers who helped with ideas in the investigation", the police said. 

The murders happened at the Pathe cinema on Gedempte Zuiderdiep on Saturday morning. Camera footage show suspect Ergun S. (33) entering the cinema at around 7:30 a.m. and leaving a short time later. The couple's bodies were discovered at around 9:20 a.m. that morning. The couple, who lived in nearby town Slocteren, worked as cleaners and had been cleaning the cinema for years, Gina's half brother said to AD. The couple had two children, who are in their twenties.

According to mayor Adriaan Hoogendoorn of Midden-Groningen, which covers the village of Slochteren, the murders of Gina and Marinus left the village shaken. A meeting was held for Slochteren residents on Sunday, so that they could share their "powerlessness, bewilderment and feelings of horror", he said to RTV Noord. "And we wanted to see how we should deal with this as a village community." 

The locals have a strong desire to do something for the couple's children, who now live in Groningen but used to live in Slochteren, Hoogendoorn said. But they will let the children take the lead in this. "The children knew about the meeting, but they did not attend. They indicated that for now they don't want anything at all and that is respected by the village", he said. "The realization that you can lose both parents from one moment to the next in this way, is having a huge impact on the people of Slochteren."

Suspect Ergun S. from Rotterdam was arrested on Sunday. He was armed with a knife at the time. Police officers shot him in the legs during his arrest. He is still in hospital, according to AD. When he will be arraigned, is not yet clear. 

S. was likely in Groningen to see his ex-girlfriend and their child, a family member of the man said to AD. According to him, the couple broke up around three years ago, after which the woman and child moved to the north of the country. "He initially went to Groningen more often for his ex-girlfriend and their child. In the beginning she sometimes asked if he wanted to come, then suddenly she didn't want anything to do with him anymore", the family member said. 

The man's family thinks he entered the cinema because he was looking for a place to sleep. His sister doesn't think he was looking for his ex and child at the cinema. "Because she does not live in the city of Groningen, but somewhere nearby, we think Winschoten. He had not been allowed to see his child for a long time. He was very sad about that", she said to the newspaper. According to her, S. has psychological problems and they were working on getting him admitted to a mental health clinic.

The murders had a huge impact on the society of Groningen and Slochteren, Groningen mayor Koen Schuiling said to Dagblad van het Noorden. He communicated his condolences to the couple's children. "Terrible, if something like this happens to you."

Schuiling complimented the police and judiciary on the quick arrest of the suspect. "Great work has been done." He hope that the authorities' quick action will help strengthen the sense of security in Groningen. He called on the public to await the results of the investigation. "There is no point in speculating. It is someone from Rotterdam. We don't know why he was here and how long he had been here", he said. "The investigation will show what the circumstances were."