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Brabant Killers case in Belgium: who, what, when?

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, the Belgian Federal Police spread a new photo of a man to be identified as part of the investigation into the case of the so-called Brabant Killers, which has remained unresolved since the 80s.

It is not clear who the man is or if he is a suspect. However, he could be important to the case, according to the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office. “He has been investigated, but they haven’t been able to identify him yet,” the office told VRT.

Federal police spread this photo on Tuesday.

A gang known in Wallonia as ‘the Mad Killers of Brabant’ and in Flanders as ‘the Gang of Nivelles’ is at the centre of the criminal file, with police still working to determine their identities since the first of a string of murderous raids and burglaries that injured over 40 people across the country, and killed a combined 28 people, among which also children, between 1982 and 1985.

34 years after the criminal acts, it is still unclear who and how many people are behind the gang. However, three men known as the Killer, the Giant and the Old Man are thought to be the core members of the group.

Are there any suspects?

Suspicions that authorities could be complicit rose as well and targetted, in particular, the now-abolished Belgian gendarmerie, as the gang was suspected of having access to insider information to elude capture on several occasions. Several leads have been explored over the years, but all without results.

According to relatives of the victims, the investigation into the Gang has been “manipulated.”

It is assumed that (some of) the victims were not chosen at random, but targetted deliberately. Most leads exclude that the deadly robberies were organised to steal the money in the supermarkets’ cash registers, as the gang would have targetted different locations.

In the raid on the Delhaize supermarket of Aalst, which claimed eight victims, the loot amounted to 200,000 Belgian francs (roughly €5,000) and some cheques that were later fished out of the Brussels-Charleroi Canal. During a different raid on restaurant Auberge du Chevalier, only bottles of champagne, coffee and some delicacies were taken.

Has DNA been found?

In 2017, the team investigating the case was expanded from 11 to 30 investigators.

The investigators only have two DNA profiles. The first comes from a cigarette butt, thought to be of one of the perpetrators, found in the car of a murdered taxi driver. The second is DNA found on a cut-up bulletproof vest that was fished out of a river in 1986.

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In January 2020, hundreds of Belgians were asked to provide samples of their DNA in a new push to break the case, as investigators collected samples from men and women named in the file, including some who have already provided a sample even if it gave a false result in the past or if it was not possible to analyse a mixed DNA sample, made up of a known and unknown profile.

Statute of limitations

The renewed push for a DNA-based lead in the case came after the statute of limitations period for the file was pushed back by ten years just ahead of the 2015 deadline.

The photo that was released by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday, was given to a detective as early as 1986.

“According to that person, the man in the picture was important. Possibly he knows something or was involved in the crimes of the Brabant Killers Gang,” Eric Van Duysse of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office told De Morgen. “To this day, we do not know who he is. We want to understand that, and therefore we are now releasing the photo to the general public,” he added.

In the picture, a man is depicted holding a dual function rifle of the Italian brand Franchi type Spas 12 – calibre 12. Anyone who knows anything that could help the case is asked to contact the police.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times