The killing of 42-year-old David Polfliet in a park in Beveren in East Flanders on 6 March may not have been a premeditated murder driven by homophobia – as investigators are now assuming – but it might have been something even more worrying.
Three minors are currently detained in a locked young offenders’ institution in connection with the killing. Eight more have recently been arrested, suggesting the problem is more widespread.
David, an out gay man, was lured to the park in Beveren by the profile of a 15-year-old youth on the gay dating app Grindr. When he arrived at the arranged spot, he was confronted by three youths who demanded his money and valuables. When he refused, he was attacked, and sustained at least one wound to the thigh which touched an artery. He died in moments on the spot.
The circumstances of the attack, and the information that investigators have gathered since then, now tends to suggest the three youths are part of a semi-organised group who describe themselves as ‘paedo-hunters’, out to track down and entice men they consider to be paedophiles and then beat and rob them.
But not murder them – although the distinction is of no interest to the victim or their family. However the law does distinguish between someone who kills another human after preparation and planning, and sets out with the intention of killing; and someone who kills another without premeditation, for example in the process of committing another crime.
The question whether carrying a knife to an ambush is enough to be considered premeditation is one for the prosecutor, and then the court, to determine. But this case aside, the existence of gangs of self-described ‘paedo-hunters’ – made up in most cases of teenage boys – is of concern enough in the meantime.
Now police have arrested eight other youths – one an adult and brother of one of the Polfliet accused and the rest minors. They form part of the same gang, whose aim was to lure gay men into their trap and then rob them. The motive appears to have been robbery, with Grindr used as an easy way to entice victims.
The new accused are not linked to the murder of David Polfliet, but are accused of other offences. They are also being detained in the youth detention centre in Everberg outside of Brussels. After the weekend it may become more clear what exactly they are suspected of.