Priest of the Church of the Virgin Mary and Mar Boulos Arsanios Wadid was stabbed to death on Thursday while he was walking along the Mediterranean Corniche in the Sidi Bishr district.
A 60-year-old male suspect was arrested by police.
Wadid, 56, was taken to Mustafa Kamel Military Hospital in Sidi Gaber, but he succumbed to his injuries, the Church of the Virgin Mary and Mar Boulos said.
The prosecution ordered the detention of the assailant for four days pending investigations, a statement by the prosecution said on Friday. It added that a court had ordered the suspect be given a medical examination in a public hospital specialised in the treatment of mental illnesses. The man allegedly said during his interrogation that he suffered from a mental illness that makes him “lose control over his actions”.
During his interrogation, the defendant confessed to intentionally killing Wadid, but later said he had arrived in Alexandria a few days earlier in search of work and stayed overnight on the streets, claiming that the knife in his possession was just for self-defence. He also claimed that he was not aware of what he was doing on the day of the incident until he was arrested.
He said he started suffering from mental disorders 10 years ago after which he was admitted to a mental health hospital to receive treatment, and that he sometimes loses control of his actions, the statement added.
The prosecution said it heard the accounts of 17 eyewitnesses, inspected the crime scene, reviewed surveillance cameras in surrounding areas, and received autopsy reports from the Forensic Medicine Authority and the Alexandria Poison Centre. The results conclusively showed that the cause of death was a stab in the neck.
Three surveillance cameras showed parts of the incident and the ensuing panic by those who were at the scene of the crime, however, the stabbing itself was not visible on the recordings.
Other circulated video clips and photographs attributed to the incident, the victim, and the accused were collected by the prosecution for further investigation.
The prosecution added in the statement that it was conducting an investigation with the defendant’s family as part of the procedures it was taking in the case.
It also took blood samples from the suspect to ascertain if he was under the influence of drugs when he attacked the priest, the statement said.
In a statement, the church eulogised “this blessed father who committed his life to God, and gave his life today to him in an honest martyrdom”.
Pope Tawadros II, the patriarch of the See of St Mark and leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, bid farewell to “a virtuous priest and an active servant”.
Also on Friday, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb extended condolences to Wadid’s family, Pope Tawadros II, and the Coptic people following the incident.
Al-Tayeb, the leader of the Sunni Muslim world’s top religious institution, condemned the incident and stressed that killing a soul is considered one of the major sins in Islam that result in God’s wrath and punishment, according to a statement.
He quoted the Quranic verse “whoever killed a soul, except for a soul slain, or for sedition in the earth, it should be considered as though he had killed all mankind; and that whoever saved it should be regarded as though he had saved all mankind.”
Al-Tayeb also called on everyone to be aware that this murder and similar incidents pave the way for “religious wars” between people of the nation, adding that “Egypt survived these types of wars thanks to God Almighty and its people as well as its leaders.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.