Family and colleagues of the murdered police officer Kitty Van Nieuwenhuysen have expressed dismay at the full liberation of one of her killers only eight years after being convicted.
Nourredine Cheikni was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of Van Nieuwenhuysen in December 2007. The young officer was shot dead as she was on patrol in Beersel in Flemish Brabant.
Three men had carried out a home-jacking in nearby Lot, injuring the man of the house before fleeing. When they came upon the police patrol they opened fire, injuring one seriously and killing the other. Another policeman was shot and injured at the scene of the homejacking. Kitty Van Nieuwenhuysen was 23 years old.
Since the murder had been committed to facilitate the commission of another serious crime, that was considered an aggravating circumstance.
Nevertheless Cheikni served only one-third of his sentence – ten years including time spent on remand – before being released last year under electronic surveillance. That has also now been removed, leaving him entirely free, the first of the gang to be liberated.
“Kitty is a symbol for every officer who walks the streets in the service of society,” said Carlo Medo, chair of the police union NSPV-SNPS. “Her memory lives on strongly among police personnel.” Society needs to take stronger measures to tackle violence against anyone with a social function, he said. “And that includes not only police officers, but also for example teachers and bus drivers.”
Police have also long called for harsher sentences for police-killers, and the mechanisms are in place, he said. “But sentencing is not following along.”
Officer Van Nieuwenhuysen’s parents Johan and Nelly had just returned home to Leuven from a holiday in Spain when they heard the news of Cheikni’s release. “You don’t give someone 30 years for stealing an orange,” her father told Het Nieuwsblad. “That gangster should never have been freed.”
The three accused were anything but choirboys, he said. “One of the three had two police bullets in his body after they had run through a police barricade. They had a previous record of violent crimes. On the day in question they had two kalashnikovs and fired on anything that moved. And yet someone like Cheikni can go happily off home after serving barely a third of his sentence. My wife and I are baffled, but we’ll have to live with it – just as we’ve had to live for 12 years with the daily absence of our daughter.”