Former career soldier Jürgen Conings, who was found dead on Sunday in Dilserbos, in Dilsen-Stokkem after a month-long manhunt, died after taking his life with a gun, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office announced on Monday afternoon.
The autopsy, which started on Sunday evening, confirmed the cause of death and estimated that the date of death was between one and four weeks ago, according to reports from De Morgen.
The firearm he used lay alongside his body, which was found by the mayor of Maaseik, Johan Tollenaere, who was out cycling when he noticed an overwhelming smell of decay, just 150 metres from the spot where the forest had previously been thoroughly searched.
Tollenaere notified military and emergency services who were still in the area as part of the search for Conings, and it was officially confirmed by the federal prosecutor’s office on Sunday that the body was that of Conings.
On Sunday evening, Limburg provincial governor Jos Lantmeeters announced that the security situation in the province returned to “normal”, as the counter-terrorism centre OCAD confirmed “that there was no longer an imminent threat.”
A final search operation was being conducted on Monday at the Dilserbos with the objective to find the stolen P90 machine gun, which can pierce bulletproof vests and was taken by Conings.
The investigation took several hours, but the last weapon was found, and the month-long search was finalised at around 1:00 PM, according to Het Belang Van Limburg.
Conings had been missing for over a month. He disappeared from home with stolen heavy weaponry on 17 May, resulting in a nationwide manhunt.
He left behind two notes, one of which included threats against virologist Marc Van Ranst, who was kept in a safe house with his family for the whole duration of the search.
Conings’ girlfriend of seven years had been questioned and held in a cell as a possible suspect, either for helping Conings with his escape or of being aware of his plans. However, on Saturday, she was brought before the investigating judge, who decided not to arrest her.
According to her lawyer, Bert Partoens, she was in two minds about the news of Conings’ death.
“On the one hand, she is happy that the ordeal is over and that there were no other victims, but of course she has lost her partner,” Partoens told Het Nieuwsblad.
“She has absolutely nothing to do with what Conings did. She did not know, and she did not help him. On the contrary, she had at least as many questions as the investigators for Conings. She had been questioned several times in the past weeks but was never able to make a significant contribution to the investigation,” he added.
Several relatives and acquaintances of Conings previously contested suicide as a cause of death.
“I don’t believe he committed suicide, I believe he was murdered,” his aunt said in front of television crews at the scene on Sunday.
Those in need of a listening ear or with any questions about suicide can contact the Suicide Line anonymously on the toll-free number 1813 or at www.zelfmoord1813.be in Dutch, at 0800 32 123 in French, or at 02 648 40 14 in English.