The Antwerp Appeal Court on Wednesday sentenced Steve Bakelmans, presumed murderer of young Julie Van Espen, to five years in prison and 10 years’ probation for the rape of his ex girlfriend.
The sentence was tougher than the four-year prison term that had been imposed by the lower court. The Appeal Court also ordered his immediate arrest.
The victim had reported the abuse to the police on 31 October 2016, stating that Bakelmans, with whom she had had a relationship with for four years, had entered her studio in Antwerp that night, ripped off her under garments and raped her. He had also stifled her cries by stuffing socks into her mouth and hit her twice in the face.
Before leaving, Bakelmans stole her purse. A little later, he sent her a message: “Fuck! Good Lord! I’m going to the police myself! I am sorry!”
The culprit turned himself in to the police on 6 November and confessed. He said he’d always been in love with her and had dreamed that night that she was marrying someone else. He added that he had only wanted to lie beside her, but the situation became uncontrollable when she began to shout.
On 4 May 2019, Julie Van Espen, a 23-year-old student, disappeared while riding her bicycle between her Schilde home and Antwerp, where she was to have met some friends.
Two days later, her body was found during a search in the Albert Canal. On the same day, Bakelmans, 39, had been identified as a suspect and questioned.