This article translated by Michael Laudahn
This story does make me think of the age old adage,
‘When seconds count, the police are only minutes away’
Arnegg top chef André Heiniger was attacked and injured in his own garden restaurant by guests. He assumes they were ‘travellers’ (Gypsies) and has reported the incident, like two of his employees.
Those driving through Arnegg will inevitably pass the ‘Ilge’. A conspicuous house – because of its red ¨front. And a well-known address. The ‘Ilge’ is not a village pub, it is a gourmet restaurant – having made itself a name far beyond the region. This house can show off 15 Gault-Millau points. Little surprise thus that on the national day [1 august], its garden is occupied up to the last seat. A six-course menu is waiting for the guests. And this is what they get served – plus an accompanying programme. One undesired and enduring, at least for André Heiniger, top chef and owner of the ‘Ilge’, plus two of his employees.
It is late on friday morning. After some turbulent days, Heiniger has time for a conversation. For lunch, he is not at the stove; he’s ‘barred’ from the kitchen, involuntarily. ‘Doctor’s orders’, says he. He wears a neck brace. ‘I can’t turn my head. An extreme hardening of the muscle, according to the doctor’s diagnosis. Whiplash-like symptoms.’ The cause of his pain and ailment: On the evening of August 1st, he received punches against his head and neck. For 20 years, Heiniger has been preparing meals at the ‘Ilge’ – ‘never has something like that happened to me in all those years’.
Then the top chef starts describing. Around noon, two men took seat in the garden restaurant – ‘they had been here before a number of times, having a beer or two’. In the course of the afternoon and evening, more men joined – ‘finally, they were eight persons’, says Heiniger. They ordered and drank, and eventually, the waitress showed up in the kitchen: The men were getting louder and louder, their noise level was starting to disturb the other guests.
Heiniger leaves the kitchen, steps outside into the garden and asks the men to lower their voices, continue their conversation at a lower volume. ‘Alright’, says the first man. Then a second man reacts, contradicts the first man, then a third one comes in – ‘everything happens incredibly fast’, tells Heiniger, ‘like a play rehearsed’. The men insult him in the worst possible ways. ‘Why don’t you turn your store into a retirement home’, one of them hurls at him. Heiniger remains calm: ‘If you don’t like it here, may I ask you to leave our house.’ The men get up: ‘Sure – but we won’t pay.’ Heiniger draws their attention to the facts: ‘You know that this is bilking and punishable by law.’
The men leave the garden restaurant, then walk towards the street – Heiniger ‘accompanying’ them, worried about his numerous guests. Then, one of the men turns around, hustles and pushes Heiniger, bumps into him and insults him anew. The top chef asks the men: ‘Please do go.’ Another one interferes, a third one lifts a stone – ‘we have a stone garden in front of the house’, say Heiniger, ‘the stone probably weighed some 1.5 kg’. He calls the service people to alarm police and to inform the kitchen. The kitchen principal, an aide and the third-year apprentice rush to assist their boss. When the men [gipsies] realise that the kitchen principal is a german [same language as in Switzerland, but different dialect], they insult him as ‘nazi’. The aide stands in protection before the man – ‘then suddenly, a fist brawl starts’, tells Heiniger. Guests rush to aid. The men flee. A minute later, police arrive, six men.
Heiniger has kept their license plate in mind. And also the men – ‘distinctive faces’, says he. A second vehicle they leave on the parking ground. Next morning, it is gone. The police interrogates Heiniger, his personal and several guests. One guest has filmed the events [but not uploaded so far, it seems].
The next day, Heiniger visits the doctor. He, his kitchen principal and the aide file a criminal report. Heiniger is convinced they were travellers camping in the vicinity. And that it was ‘a coordinated, rehearsed procedure – there are probably numerous people damaged like me, but most of them remain silent, mostly fearing revenge’. Doesn’t he have this fear too? ‘I do think of it’, says he, adding: ‘Silence doesn’t solve the problem. Are we really that powerless?’ And the thing he can’t comprehend even three days after the incident: why police didn’t confiscate the second vehicle on his parking ground.
Hanspeter Krüsi, media speaker at the St Gallen canton police, confirms the incident and the police intervention. So why wasn’t the car confiscated? ‘This is a major act.’ What is it that police will do next? ‘Following the cars’ licence plates, the two vehicles’ owners will be found and then interrogated. Then, the findings will be passed on to the prosecutor’s office.’ Were they travellers? ‘I cannot comment on that.’