Most wanted couple to be extradited to Belgium after 23 years on the run

Most wanted couple to be extradited to Belgium after 23 years on the run
A Franco-Belgian couple, on the run for more than two decades and wanted for the murder of a British businessman, will be extradited to Belgium after their arrest in Ivory Coast. Credit: Gendarmerie Nationale de Côte d'Ivoire/Facebook

The only Belgian woman to top Europol's Most Wanted list will be extradited into Belgium with her French partner, after the couple's recent arrest ended more than two decades they spent on the run.

Hilde Van Acker and her partner and Jean-Claude Lacote were arrested in late 2019 in the Ivory Coast and are set to be handed to Belgium, Van Acker's lawyer said, according to De Morgen.

Arrested in Belgium over the 1996 murder of a British businessman, the pair fled to South Africa after they were conditionally released due to lack of evidence.

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They shot their victim, Marcus Mitchell, twice in the head and neck after he found that Lanote, an elusive conman now aged 53, had scammed him.

The body of the 44-year-old Brit was discovered by children who were playing among sand dunes in the coastal town of De Haan, the Flemish outlet reports.

Sentenced to life in prison in absentia in 2011, the couple were later added to Europol's most wanted list after and Van Acker was also a central figure in the police body's "crime has no gender" campaign, launched in 2019.

On the run for 23 years, the pair are set to be immediately arrested upon their arrival to Belgium, with the formalities yet to be defined as Belgium does not have an extradition treaty with Ivorian authorities.

After their arrest in November, 56-year-old Van Acker, who suffers from breast cancer, is reported to have requested the extradition herself, citing concerns that she was not receiving appropriate treatment.

Van Acker's lawyer spoke of plans to oppose the 2011 "life sentence" they received in absentia and to launch a new criminal trial upon their return to Belgium.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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