A man who prowled around in Ghent for 15 years, accosting young women to be able to touch their feet, has handed himself in to police in the city, the East Flanders prosecutor’s office said.
The development comes as a result of the VTM investigative programme Faroek, which carried an item on the man on 30 September, including a composite sketch based on witness statements to police.
Following that broadcast, police received information from a member of the public living in France which allowed the suspect to be identified. He has not been named, but has been identified as a 47-year-old man living near Lille in northern France.
Police originally released the man’s portrait in early October. Since 2006, the story of the ‘Voetenman’ (Foot-man) has been making the rounds of the student quarter of Ghent. The man, it was said, followed young women and accosted them, asking if he could see and touch their feet.
“The offences committed by the man are unacceptable and he must be stopped,” police said at the time of the release of the sketch. They called on the man to turn himself in.
“This man may need help and the police may be able to play a part in that.”
To date, 17 women have filed police reports on the man. His modus operandi was constant, victims said. He would appear distressed, pretending he could not speak properly or at all. He would make gestures and signs at the women, who understood nothing. Eventually he would get them to remove a shoe, take their bare foot and caress it and then leave.
Some of his victims were left bemused, others traumatised.
He was described as white, and possibly of Eastern European descent. He is over 40 years old and of slim build. He is between 1.70 and 1.75 meters tall and has dark hair that is probably shaved very short at times, which makes him look bald.
“The man never uses violence and is at most a bit pushy. It is unclear whether the man cannot speak or is merely pretending, as an excuse to get close to college girls,” police said.
Yesterday morning, he came of his own accord into a police station in Ghent and admitted to being the wanted Foot-man.
“He was extensively interrogated, and confessed the incidents. He acknowledges that he has a problem for which he wants to receive appropriate treatment. He has not, however, been held for the time being,” the prosecutor’s office said.
“After the interrogation, the man was allowed to leave the public prosecutor’s office with the express condition that he follow this treatment, and submit the necessary evidence of treatment.”
The Brussels Times