Police carrying out a search for a body in a 37-year-old cold case came up with nothing this week, the Brussels prosecutor’s office said.
The search was being carried out near the Van Praet bridge in Brussels, which borders Schaerbeek and Laeken, for the body of Francis Zwarts (photo), a courier who disappeared after being robbed at Brussels Airport. He had been carrying a consignment of diplomatic papers, diamonds and gold on behalf of the national airline Sabena, for delivery to Brucargo.
His car was found days later, but in the years since then, no trace has been recovered of the man himself.
The new lead came from a man often linked to the Brabant Killers gang, which was active in Belgium in the 1980s and who were responsible for a string of robberies in which a total of 28 people were killed. Nobody has ever been charged in connection with the gang’s activities, which most people attribute to a gang of rogue agents of the now-disbanded gendarmerie.
The tip about the whereabouts of Zwarts’ remains came from one ex-gendarme, Robert Beijer. He was sentenced for a robbery in 1995, where his confederate, Madani Bouhouche, another gendarme, was convicted of robbery and murder. Now free and living in Thailand, Beijer is reported to have directed police to the site where the search this week took place.
The Brussels prosecutor’s office refuses to confirm or deny Beijer’s involvement, but said the case was re-opened on the basis of “new information”.
“The investigation has been re-opened to give the Zwarts family the answers it has been looking for these past 37 years,” said prosecutor’s spokesperson Denis Goeman. “At the conclusion of the digging work which will take place this week, further information will be given.”
The conclusion, as it turns out, is that there is no conclusion to the Zwarts case.
“It was important for us, out of respect for the family, to close all doors in this investigation, but unfortunately that has not borne fruit on this occasion,” Goeman added after the search. “Let us hope that other elements will emerge in the future which will allow the family to obtain the answers for which they have been waiting for 37 years.”