Thierry Bourgard, convicted with an accomplice of the brutal murder of a young couple in July 1992 which shocked the nation, has died in prison in Marche-en-Famenne in Luxembourg province.
He had been found guilty in 1996 and sentenced to life imprisonment, with the condition that the state could continue holding him for a further 20 years after he was due for release. His accomplice, Thierry Muselle, died in prison in April 2015.
The case was important not only because of the details of the crime, but because it later helped lead to a change in the way decisions are made regarding an early release for prisoners convicted of serious crimes.
The pair were found guilty of kidnapping 17-year-old Corine Malmendier and her 21-year-old boyfriend Marc Kistemann, both of Plombières in Liege province. They were held captive while Corine was raped, then murdered. Their bodies were found in a wood eight days after they disappeared.
It was revealed that at the time of the crimes, Bourgard was on prison leave having served three years of a ten-year sentence for violence and torture. Muselle, meanwhile, was on early release from a ten-year sentence for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old. He had served eight years.
The parents of the latest two victims set up the Association Marc et Corine, to campaign for a system of allowing early release from prison while ensuring it did not create a danger to the public. The organisation also aimed to provide support for the families of victims, and played a major role later in 1996 when the first two victims of serial killer Marc Dutroux were discovered, soon to be followed by two more murdered girls.
Like Muselle, Dutroux had been released early from prison while serving a sentence for rape. In Dutroux’s case, the final decision was taken by then justice minister Melchior Wathelet, going against the advice of both the prosecutor’s office and the psychiatrists involved in the case. Public outrage over the early release led to a radical change of the system, taking the decision on early release out of the hands of ministers entirely and leaving it to a panel of experts.
Wathelet, who came in for widespread criticism of his decision, later went on to serve as Belgium’s judge on the European Court of Justice, and later the court’s advocate-general.