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Alleged killers in homophobic hate crime were all teenagers

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The three people thought to be responsible for the brutal murder of a gay man in Belgium over the weekend are all teenage boys.

Each of the boys, two of whom are 17 years old and one of whom is 16, turned themselves into police on Sunday, the day after the murder, according to De Standaard.

They were interrogated on Monday and will be brought to trial in juvenile court Tuesday, where a judge could decide that ordinary juvenile justice measures are not sufficient enough, and instead have them tried as adults because they are between the ages of 16 and 18.

The murder took place in a park in the East Flemish city of Beveren, near Antwerp, where the three teenagers are thought to have lured 42-year-old David Polfliet under the pretense of a date arranged using the gay dating app Grindr.

The three are said to have admitted to the court their involvement in Polfliet’s death, saying they didn’t intend to kill him, but wanted to rob him. The victim was badly beaten and fatally stabbed. A cyclist found his body the following day and called police.

The public prosecutor’s office of East Flanders has not provided an official motive, saying it will take into account all possibilities, but many have condemned the murder as a homophobic hate crime, including Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who took to Twitter to say he was “deeply shocked by the extreme homophobia in Beveren” and hung the rainbow flag from Rue de la Loi 16 as a symbol of solidarity with the gay community.

There is no room for hatred in our country. Love wins.

Marc Van de Vijver, the mayor of Beveren where the murder took place, responded with “horror and bewilderment.”

“The perpetrators must be severely punished so that such acts never happen again,” he said.

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If the murder is indeed determined to be a hate crime, it would be the second known homophobic murder to take place in Belguim. In 2012, Ihsane Jarfi was killed in Liège by four men for the same reason. A silent march is held in his memory each year on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

It also wouldn’t be the first time that a user of the gay dating app Grindr became the victim of murder. There have been a multitude of instances where a murderer used Grindr to locate victims, and one British serial kill was even named “the Grindr Killer.”

“Corona has closed gay saunas and clubs. A dating app like this is dangerous, but it is the only way to date,” said Wim Raes, chairman of an LGBT association from the Waasland where the victim was also an active member.

Interviews with Polfliet’s friends described him as a warm, hard working person who did not drink and wasn’t the nightlife type. He worked as a crane operator at a farm in Lokeren.

“We are terribly shocked,” his employer Kenny De Backer told De Standaard. “David was a fantastic worker, but also a very warm person who was always ready to help. We will miss him enormously.”

Polfliet was the son of a farming family from Sint-Kruis-Winkel, a part of Ghent. He was living near Sint-Niklaas with his dog Marley, who he adopted from a shelter.

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times