Steve Bakelmans, the 39-year-old man suspected of murdering student Julie Van Espen (23), will appear before the Antwerp court of appeal on Wednesday for another matter, the rape of his former girlfriend. He was sentenced in the first instance to four years in prison for these acts.
The victim had alerted the police on October 31, 2016. Bakelmans, with whom she had had a four-year relationship, had that night entered her bedsit in Antwerp, torn her underclothes and raped her. To stifle her screams, he stuffed some socks into her mouth and, as she continued to struggle, punched her in the face.
Before leaving, the man stole the young woman’s wallet. A few moments later, he sent her an apology text: “Shit! Hell! I’m going to hand myself in to the cops. There’s nothing anyone can do for me in any case. It’s better like that. I am so very sorry,” he wrote.
Bakelmans presented himself to the police on November 6 2016. He confessed to the charges, explaining he was still in love with his former companion and had dreamed she was getting married to someone else before going to her flat. He only wanted to lie down at her side but, when she started to scream, the situation got out of hand, he added.
The man has already been in and out of the court system five times for theft, rape, handling stolen goods and making threats. Furthermore, he has been convicted six times for road traffic offences.
In June 2017, he was sentenced in the first instance to four years in prison. His immediate arrest was not required because the court considered there was no indication he would attempt to escape his punishment.
The thirty-year-old lodged an appeal. His case had taken some time to come up because of a personnel shortage at the appeal court. That is why he was at liberty when, on last May 4, he attempted to rape Julie Van Espen before killing her and throwing her body into the Albert canal in Antwerp.
The Brussels Times