13-year-old Belgian boy released after 42 days of abduction

13-year-old Belgian boy released after 42 days of abduction
Credit: Belga

Last night, a 13-year-old boy was released in the vicinity of Genk after 42 days of being kidnapped, the public prosecutor of the Limburg province and the federal police announced during a press conference on Monday.

During the night of 20 to 21 April 2020, a violent abduction of a child of 13 years old took place in the vicinity of the city of Genk in the Limburg province.

"The kidnappers entered the parental home with a stolen vehicle, were masked and heavily armed and forcibly took the victim with them," Limburg public prosecutor Guido Vermeiren told the press.

Immediately after the kidnapping, an investigation was launched by the Federal Judicial Police, in cooperation with several local police zones and the public prosecutor's office.

"25 people were working on this case, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week," said Kris Vandepaer, head of the Federal Judicial Police Limburg, adding that up to 100 people participated in the investigation at certain points.

Belgium also cooperated with Dutch, French and American judicial and police authorities. "Getting the child back alive was always the most important thing for us," Vermeiren said.

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"The kidnapping lasted 42 days. During these 42 days, there were frequent contacts between the kidnappers and the family, demanding ransom," said Vermeiren.

"Twice, the kidnappers gave a sign of life," he said, adding that no information will be released about the possible payment of that ransom.

The family of the boy has reportedly been involved in drug investigations in the past, according to Flemish media, but the prosecutor's office neither confirmed nor denied that the kidnapping was linked to the drug environment.

"After a thorough and very intense search, several suspects came into the picture," said Vermeiren. "The child was released shortly after midnight on 1 June," he said, adding that a large-scale operation was immediately launched after the release, in which 7 suspects, from the Limburg and Antwerp regions, were arrested for interrogation.

"The child and the family were immediately given the necessary medical and psychological assistance," Vermeiren said.

Additionally, 12 house searches took place in Antwerp and the vicinity of Genk, between 1:00 AM and 6:00 AM, but no further information can be released in the interest of the ongoing investigation.

Barring the case of infamous serial paedophile Marc Dutroux, this case is the longest-lasting abduction in Belgian history.

The 13-year-old boy was held hostage 10 days longer than Anthony De Clerck, the son of textile magnate Jan De Clerck, who was in the hands of his kidnappers for a total of 32 days in 1992.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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