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Hunter who found fugitive Conings now accused

Soldiers stand guard during the searc for Conings. © Belga

Nard Houben, the hunter who claimed to have stumbled on the remains of fugitive soldier Jürgen Conings back in June, is now under investigation for trying to steal the machine gun Conings had in his possession at the time he died.

Conings disappeared on 17 May, carrying heavy weaponry from two military barracks where he was stationed. His car was discovered the next day, but he remained missing for over a month, while a massive search took place to track him down.

He also left behind two written messages, for police and for his wife, in which he stated his intention to carry out an attack, mentioning virologist Marc Van Ranst by name.

His remains, in an advanced state of decomposition, were discovered on 20 June, and it was determined he had died by his own hand, probably shortly after he disappeared.

Houben had already come to the notice of the legal authorities when he was suspected of having taken the photo of the remains at the scene, which later made its way to German media.

The P90 machine pistol Conings had with him was found close to the body, and it seemed as if it had been removed in an attempt to hide it. Suspicion immediately fell on Houben, who has since come under suspicion for the unlawful possession of other firearms. Those include knuckle-dusters, forbidden in Belgium, as well as 120 firearms and ammunition.

The P90 is a military weapon of extreme power, its bullets able to penetrate ordinary bulletproof vests. For that reason, the possession of such a weapon by a civilian would be immediately suspect.

But the weapon was found and moved back to the army camp for safety. Only a forensic examination can determine if Houben was ever in contact. It remains unlikely, however, that Conings himself secreted the weapon far from his suicide site.