Serbia has been experiencing a true epidemic of family disputes with tragic outcomes. The latest statistics indicate that not a month went by in 2012 without at least one family related murder. The victims have mostly been women and the elderly household members.
The latest in the family crime wave happened on the outskirts of the northern town of Subotica in the Serbian province of Vojvodina. Mr. Petar Jelaš stabbed his eight years younger wife Sandra to death. The police investigation concluded that the murderer subsequently hang himself in the family yard.
The bodies of spouses were found by victim’s mother who came to visit.
Neighbours claim that tragedy of Jelaš family may be rooted in repeated disputes between Petar and Sandra. Despite raising their two children, their marriage has been dysfunctional for a while. Subsequently, one of the spouses filed for a divorce, which should have been finalized on November 5 this year.
Seven days prior to Subotica family tragedy, a father stabbed his son through the heart with a kitchen knife after a family dispute in the eastern Serbian mining town of Bor.
Family members’ murders were not absent from the Serbian crime scene in September when Mr. Petar Balan shot his wife Marica and daughter Sanela before committing suicide in the village of Ritiševo, near the northeastern Serbian town of Vršac.
Psychiatrist, Ms. Marija Đurović warns that “violence has been triggered by economic crises”. She says “the police have to take the first signs of violence within a family more seriously”. “Tragic events are often a consequence of systematic neglect to acknowledge and sanction violent behavior of a family member. Without any legal sanctions, crimes of this nature are effectively encouraged.”
Serbian law sanctions the mildest forms of family related violence with prison sentences that can range between three months and three years. Legal experts claim The Penal Code has been sufficiently strict stressing that the real problem lies within the court practice, which usually opts for mild sentences for family related crimes.