Judge forbids broadcast on decade-old ‘castle murder’

Judge forbids broadcast on decade-old ‘castle murder’
Stijn Saelens

A judge has ordered TV broadcaster VTM not to show the documentary series De Kasteelmoord (Murder in the Castle), due to broadcast the first of four episodes this evening.

The ruling comes at the request of Elisabeth Gyselbrecht, widow of the victim in the case, Stijn Saelens. As the court in the case heard, the murder of Saelens, carried out in January 2012 by hired guns on the orders of Gyselbrecht’s father André, was brought about by his decision to emigrate with his wife and four children.

It took almost a month for the body of Saelens to be recovered, buried in a shallow grave on land close to a chalet owned by one Pierre Serry. Autopsy confirmed that Saelens had died from a bullet wound to the lung.

Three suspects – Gyselbrecht and his son (against whom no charges were finally brought), and Serry, were detained on suspicion of murder. It later emerged that the fatal shot had been fired by hired killer Ron Van Bommel, a Dutchman from Eindhoven, recruited by who happened to be dying of pancreatic cancer.

Gyselbrecht was eventually, in 2018, sentenced to 27 years in prison, Serry to 21 years, and two other accomplices to 27 and 15 years. All but Roy Larmit saw their sentences reduced on appeal.

The court’s decision today, only hours before the scheduled broadcast of the first episode, comes at the request of Saelens’ widow, on the basis of a strange loophole in Belgian law known as a unilateral petition.

That allows for a party in a case to bring a motion before a court that does not have to be argued by the different parties. In effect, Elisabeth Gyselbrecht asked for the broadcast to be stopped, and the court agreed. The opposing side will have the chance to argue the case later, but for the time being the four-part series is suspended.

VTM said it was ‘a great shame’ that it had not been given the opportunity to argue its case, and that the cancellation was only decided on the day of broadcast itself. However the broadcaster said it would nonetheless respect the court order.

Arguments for and against the injunction will be heard later by a summary judge.

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