Murder of Julie Van Espen: Inquiry launched into handling of killer's criminal file

Murder of Julie Van Espen: Inquiry launched into handling of killer's criminal file
A court has extended the preventive detention of the presumed murderer of a 23-year-old Julie Van Espen. Credit: supplied

Belgium's judiciary watchdog on Tuesday announced it will launch a special inquiry into the potential mishandling of the criminal file of Julie Van Espen's presumed killer, suspected of murdering the 23-year-old during his release pending an appeal.

"After the death of Julie Van Espen and in the light of the information made public on the handling of her alleged murderer's criminal record, Belgium's High Council of Justice (HJC) immediately contacted competent judiciary authorities," a statement by the HJC reads.

"The Council's Joint Advisory and Investigation commissions (...) decided on June 6 to open a special inquiry," the HJC said on Tuesday.

The suspect, known as Steve B., had previously been convicted for two sexual assault offences but had seen his second case postponed “indefinitely,” and was released after he filed an appeal.

The HJC's special inquiries look "into any malfunctioning within the judiciary."

The inquiry's conclusions, expected at the end of the summer, will take the form of "recommendations," according to the council's website.

In a statement on Monday, the HJC said that its advisory and investigation commissions had determined to obtain information from Antwerp's judicial authorities to define initiatives "in order to avoid such future tragedies, in Antwerp or elsewhere."

Van Espen's murder caused a wave of indignation across Belgium, prompting calls for stricter processing of sexual-abuse reports and convictions after the body of the 23-year-old Flemish student was found in a canal near Antwerp.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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