The bodyguard on trial for four murders and torture has been found guilty by the jury. On Wednesday, the twelve jurors at the criminal court in Bruges believed that there was not the slightest doubt that the accused Alexander Dean killed his four victims with premeditation and that he tortured an amateur photographer, reports Het Laatste Nieuws.
His four victims were his ex-girlfriend Mailys Descamps, her grandparents Marie-José Vanleene and Gery Cappon and Jeroen Verstraete, an amateur photographer from Ghent, who he murdered in 2017.
Just before the decision, Dean expressed regret for the first time. "I'm sorry. If I could turn back time, I would. But I can't. Sorry."
Dean faces a sentence of life imprisonment, with the verdict to be announced on Thursday.
Earlier that day, the prosecutor asked Dean to tell the relatives of the victims why they had to die and why they had to die in such a horrible way.
But one of Dean's lawyers, the 24-year-old Brecht Horsten, asked the jurors to reflect on who Dean is, his background and his mental state.
"Why did those people have to die? That's the wrong question," said Horsten. "That question shows logic. But what he's done doesn't make sense. It's horrible."
Horsten built his case by attempting to make Dean look more humane by making his client acknowledge the awfulness of what he had done. Horsten explained that he first met Dean for the first time in prison a year ago.
"He said then what he said here. It's terrible what he's done. That he can't get it. That he finds it horrible and has been trying to erase it from his memory for years. He wants to forget what horrible person he was on those two days."
"People make him inhuman," Horsten continued. "That is why I am here today." Horsten stated.
"Over the past few days, words like monster and serial killer have been thrown around here. That was expected. But I ask you, jurors, look at him: he is and remains a human being," said Horsten.
The defence was unhappy with the psychiatric evaluation of Dean, which they dismissed as incorrect. "Alexander Dean's mother and father both have psychiatric histories," stressed Horsten.
"Depression is in his genes. Nowhere in the psychiatric report has that word been mentioned. Why not? There's so much in the criminal file that those psychiatrists haven't looked at it. Any kind of necessary nuance is lost. It's just outrageous."
"What he has done is horrific. Terrible. But it was one day of madness," the young lawyer said. "This has led to a negative spiral. I know him and I know him well. I was locked up in a room with him for hours and days. He's not a narcissist. You don't have to be a psychologist, psychiatrist or sun king for that.”
After two weeks of proceedings, Horsten tried to add some nuance to describe his client. "Everyone says he has no empathy. How so? We heard it here right? He was like a father to his sister. When he was 14 years old and his mother was in jail, he took care of his 2 year old sister, not knowing when Mom would come home. What are we going to eat today? Drink something? He was 14 years old then."
Lawyers Brecht Horsten and John Platteau had played around with the idea of requesting internment. "We are convinced that his mental capacity has been affected by depression. We also discussed that with him," Horsten said. "But Alexander Dean has said he wants to pay. He says: "I am a perpetrator, accept my fate and I will pay". So we are not asking the jury to intern him.”
Horsten had some other questions for the jurors centring on the issue of intent. "That he killed photographer Jeroen Verstraete and that it was premeditated: yes. Torture? No. Torture requires intent. Knowingly and willingly. Torture, for example, is throwing Sulfuric acid in the face that burns the skin down to the skull."
"As is known, the civil parties and the public prosecutor believe that Alexander Dean tortured the Ghent hobby photographer - for eight hours. Alexander Dean gave that man food and drink and let him smoke a cigar. If he wanted to torture him, he wouldn't give him a well-aimed stab in the heart," said Horsten.
Horsten wouldn't elaborate as to whether the accused planned to kill Maïlys, saying "I doubt it." The lawyer also asked that Dean be convicted of manslaughter for the killing of Maïlys' grandparents.
Effects of the environment
In Horsten's final statement, he underlined why Dean hadn't apologised until the very end, in case the judges had expected an earlier contrition.
"He asked me when he could express his regret. I told him that would be inappropriate. The relatives in the room have an indescribable sadness and pain, caused by Alexander. Those are shards that can never be put together again. So don't be mad that he didn't say sorry."
"Alexander Dean was 24 years old at the time of the incident," Horsten added.
Horsten emphasised that people don't choose to whom they are born, referring to Dean's difficult childhood.
"I am 24 years old and I am pleading my first severe criminal case today. I've never had any financial problems. My father sits proudly in the hall. My mom messaged me this morning to wish me luck. She asked me if I'm going to eat there tonight. I'm sitting here today, Alexander Dean there."
Brecht Horsten concluded his statement towards the jury, saying "I'm not asking you for a good or a bad verdict. But for a correct judgment."