A 71-year-old man who stabbed his newly divorced ex-wife outside the courthouse in Veurne in 2018 has walked free after being found guilty of culpable homicide.
Mohamed Koukouh had just left the court in Veurne in West Flanders after the conclusion of his divorce from Rita Waeles (60). In the car park of the courthouse, the two got into an argument about money, and Koukouh pulled an awl – a pointed tool usually used in sewing leather or canvas – and stabbed her once.
More than two years later, the trial jury returned a verdict of guilty of culpable homicide, and not the original charge of murder. The lesser charge, his lawyer explained, means the jury found he had not acted with malice aforethought.
“He never intended to kill her. So it was not premeditated, but on a whim when he learned that after their divorce his wife was not going to keep the agreements about the money,” lawyer Kris Vincke told the VRT.
“He also didn’t aim at the heart region with the awl, it was rather a coincidence that he hit her there,” he said.
The court in its finding dismissed the evidence of Koukouh’s own son Jamal, who had testified that his father had indeed expressed vengeful emotions prior to the killing.
“I know I won’t please my father by saying that, but it’s the truth,” he told investigators. “And telling the truth is the only thing I can do for my mother,” he said.
After the jury delivered its verdict, the court sentenced Koukouh to five years in prison. A murder conviction would have attracted a sentence of up to 30 years.
However taking into account the tariff for early release, and the time he has already spent in prison since being arrested in March 2018, Koukouh was able to walk free from the court.
He can now return to the village of Lo-Reninge, from where a stream of neighbours had told the court how friendly and peaceable he is, and where the husband of the sister of his victim is now prepared to take him in.
“This is a man that nobody has a bad word for,” said Vincke. “We are very happy that justice has been done.”