The former mayor of Aalst was murdered by her partner while she was still in bed asleep for reasons which the perpetrator cannot explain, his lawyer said.
Jurgen Demesmaeker, who has a previous record of violence against women, told officials in a preliminary hearing he woke up on Tuesday morning, grabbed a hammer and hit his partner, Ilse Uyttersprot, on the head while she was still sleeping.
On Tuesday, Uyttersprot, 53, was found dead in an apartment in the centre of Aalst, some 30 kilometres north of Brussels.
"She was still in bed," Demesmaeker's lawyer, Krist'l De Paepe, said after his client's questioning by an investigative judge.
The discovery was made after Demesmaeker, 49, turned himself over to police on Tuesday evening, telling them he had killed his partner.
Demesmaeker, who works in real estate, was convicted in 2014 to six months probation for strangling his former girlfriend and also harassing her for a long time, De Standaard reports, also pointing to separate instances of abusive behaviour towards his former partners.
The suspect's lawyer said that his client regretted his actions, also disproving that reports that Uyttersprot wanted to leave Demesmaeker were at the origin of his decision to kill her.
"He regrets it, but it appears he lost it. He called it a short-circuit in his head," De Paepe said. "There was no arguing."
"Why he killed her remains unclear, he doesn't know it himself, he has no explanation for it," De Paepe said.
The lawyer said his client had gone into a "depressive dip" in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown.
The fact that Demesmaeker killed Uyttersprot while she was still asleep led the court to think the murder was premeditated, opening the door for a murder conviction.
His lawyer will argue that his actions were not premeditated and is aiming to get him convicted for manslaughter, which leads to lighter penalties.
Uyttersprot was mayor of Aalst from 2002 to 2007 and was still in office as a local councillor at the time of her murder. She is survived by two children.
The Brussels Times