Judge lifts ban on ‘Castle murder’ documentary

Judge lifts ban on ‘Castle murder’ documentary
André Gyselbrecht

A judge in Antwerp has decided to overturn a ruling to stop the broadcast of De Kasteelmoord, a VRT documentary on the murder of Stijn Saelens a decade ago in the family château in Wingene in West Flanders.

The killing received a great deal of media attention because of the fact that the Saelens were a rich family, linked to the even richer family of Saelens’ wife Elisabeth Gyselbrecht. It later emerged that her father, as well as her brother, had engaged the services of some shady criminal characters to send a warning to Saelens not to follow up on his plan to take his wife and children abroad.

Three Chechen heavies were engaged via a friend of the father, Pierre Selly, to scare Saelens. Instead they shot him dead, and were forced to bury his body in what was virtually the back garden of Selly, but the traces of the killing were left in the entrance hall of the château, meaning the murder investigation could start immediately.

It took more than two weeks for Saelens’ body to be recovered, hurriedly buried in a wood near Serry’s home. Autopsy revealed he had died on a gunshot wound to the right lung.

In 2013 the actual killer was revealed by forensic evidence to have been Ron Van Bommel, a Dutch criminal. “Had been,” because Van Bommel had already died, on pancreatic cancer, in May 2012, and was now beyond the reach of Justice.

The case has dragged on since then, with André Gyselbrecht, the father of victim Elisabeth Gyselbrecht, in and out of custody until finally tried in 2018 and sentenced to 27 years, Serry to 21 years, and two other accomplices to 27 and 15 years. All but one accomplice saw their sentences reduced on appeal.

That is the reason for the court action aimed at the VRT documentary series. With a number of accused still awaiting further proceedings, a TV documentary in three parts could be considered to prejudice any trial, by a panel of judges or – more likely – by a jury.

Now, following the latest court decision, the first part of the documentary series will be broadcast on Monday on VTM.

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