Hundreds of people attended the burial of Kata Bándy in Szekszárd on Monday as more gathered in Pécs, some to condemn “Gypsy crime” and others to condemn anti-Roma racism.
Bándy, a 25-year-old police psychologist, disappeared in the early hours of Sunday 8 July as she walked home from a Saturday evening birthday party in Pécs. Forensic experts put the estimated time of her death at 4 to 5am, after recordings from security cameras showed her walking a few hundred metres from her home, but she was only reported missing when she failed to turn up at work on the following Monday.
Her naked body was found three days later in a nearby area of underbrush and a suspect, László Péntek, arrested on the following Sunday after road checks and a news blackout were imposed.
Suspect confessed: police
Police have not said whether others are implicated in the case, but claimed last week that Péntek had made a full confession after Bándy’s phone was found on him and fabric from his clothing was found under her nails. Various reports said Péntek had admitted being under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he attacked her but had not been aware of strangling her. Sára Solymos, Péntek’s defence lawyer, denied that he had raped her – the autopsy report has not yet been released – but said he could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Round we go again
That Péntek is a 26-year-old unemployed Roma, who has a history of sentences for theft and blackmail and ought to have reported for jail the week before the murder over an unpaid driving violation, has provided further manna for supporters of stricter measures to curb what they present as endemic Roma criminality. In turn, this has prompted local Roma residents to express their fear that they could be targets of racist retaliation.
Loathing and fear
There were calls in favour of restoring capital punishment on Monday evening as around 400 people gathered in a demonstration organised by the extreme-right 64 Counties Youth Movement. This was countered by a smaller group of about 50 holding posters that read, “Being a Gypsy is not a crime”. Some 300 to 400 held a vigil on Saturday evening outside Budapest’s Saint Stephen Basilica in solidarity with the psychologist’s friends and family, and against holding all Roma people as potential criminals. Speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, National Roma Authority president Flórián Farkas called for Hungarian Roma not to be condemned because of the murder, adding that all decent citizens – Roma or not – find the crime outrageous.
Speaking on behalf of the government at the burial in Bándy’s hometown of Székszard, Human Resources Minister Zoltán Balogh said a suitable deterrent punishment should be found against those unable to measure the weight of their actions.