Magnet fishers claim to find Brabant Killers weapon in Damme Canal

Magnet fishers claim to find Brabant Killers weapon in Damme Canal
Police search for evidence in the case of the Brabant killers (Tueurs du Brabant / Bende van Nijvel) in the Damse river in Damme. Credit: Belga / Kurt Desplenter

A group of magnet fishermen are convinced that they have recovered a weapon used by the infamous Brabant Killers (Bande de Nivelles/Bende van Nijvel), who were responsible for 28 deaths and dozens of injuries during a crime spree in the early 1980s, De Morgen reports.

The Brabant Killers are possibly the most important cold case in Belgian history. Suspected far-right extremists and career criminals are thought to have had ties to extremist political movements and criminal gangs. How many played a role in the killings is unknown, though it is suspected that up to 10 people were involved.

Following a chaotic and disorganised official investigation into the group which failed to find any culprits, theories have abounded about the identity of the perpetrators. Some have alleged the gang's ties to the police, the mafia, far-right extremist groups, and other organisations.

Fishing for clues

Since November, police detectives had been searching for an uzi machine gun, reportedly used in a bloody daylight robbery at a Colruyt store in Nivelles in 1983. The search came after an investigation carried out by VTM crime journalist Faroek Özgünes alleged the potential location of the weapon.

Police press conference in 1998 releasing new sketches of suspected members of the criminal group. Credit: Belga / Geert Vanden Wijngaert

According to the investigation, the weapon was dumped into the Damme Canal (Damse Vaart) by a local garage owner several years ago. The Uzi submachine gun, hidden in a burlap bag along with four filled magazines and a bandolier, had been concealed at the garage for 27 years.

Wanting to get rid of the weapon and after failed attempts to dispense of it on the black market, the garage owner is alleged to have thrown it into the canal. The weapon was supposedly given to the garage owner by a “friendly” police officer who had asked the garage owner to hide the weapon due to its use by the Brabant Killers.

This week, magnet fishers are claiming that the missing weapon has now been fished out of the canal. Police investigators are still urging caution and have yet to confirm whether the recovered weapon is indeed the one that the authorities have been looking for.

Credit: Belga / Kurt Desplenter

“An investigation is ongoing but it is too early to say whether there is a link to the Nivelles gang,” police spokesperson Eric Van Der Sypt told De Morgen. The magnet fishers had previously claimed to have fished an Uzi and magazines from the river.

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According to police records on the Brabant Killers, this type of gun had indeed been stolen from the police in 1983. But the gun in question has allegedly already been recovered by the police. It is unclear therefore whether this latest weapon is that which investigators have been searching for.

“To speak of a real breakthrough, it’s still too early,” the police spokesperson concluded. There is no shortage of weapons dumped into Belgian waters. Since 2008, Belgian Civil Protection teams have found over 100 weapons dumped across the country.

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