The man suspected of having fired the shot that killed police inspector Amaury Delrez in Spa last weekend has now been formally charged with murder and attempted murder.
The man, 36-year-old Dutch national Yvo Theunissen, claims to have no memory of the crime. At the time of his arrest, he was found to be under the influence of drink and drugs, including tranquillisers.
Police were called to a cafe on the Avenue Reine Astrid in Spa in the early hours of Sunday morning following a dispute. It now appears, according to witnesses, three men had been refused entry earlier in the evening, and had now returned looking for trouble.
When their car was stopped by police, shots were fired and inspector Delrez was hit. He died almost immediately before medical assistance could arrive.
The three suspects escaped, but have all now been detained. Because more than one shot was fired, prosecutors will argue Theunissen was either aiming at inspector Delrez’s colleague or firing wildly without thought to the consquences, thus leaving him open to a charge of attempted murder.
A murder conviction carries a life sentence, which the Belgian justice system considers to be 30 years. He could, technically, be free after serving only ten years. Police representatives have called for a change in the law to make sentencing tougher for any attack on police officers on duty or any other member of the emergency services.
But a trial is a long way off. Police have yet to recover the murder weapon, and Theunnissen’s claim of a black-out means he is unlikely to give any useful statement.
According to one expert, it is entirely possible to forget a whole series of events, including a fatal shooting and escape from the police. “Through the extreme abuse of drugs and the black-outs that go along with that, it is indeed possible,” said psychiatrist Hendrik Peuskens of the university of Leuven, who is also an expert on addiction. “If the intoxication is severe enough, people can indeed forget everything. Users are able to do very unusual or dangerous things, and have no remaining memory afterwards.”
Meanwhile it was announced that the funeral of inspector Delrez will take place on Thursday in Theux.
UPDATE: Present at the cathedral in Theux will be prime minister Charles Michel, home affairs minister Jan Jambon and justice minister Koen Geens, governor of Liege province Hervé Jamar, chief prosecutor Christian De Valkeneer and police delegations from across the country. The public will be able to follow the service on a giant screen installed outside the church. Inspector Delrez, meanwhile, will be awarded a posthumous medal for gallantry.