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Crèche killer De Gelder heads for psychiatric internment

Kim De Gelder was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013 for four murders and 25 attempted murders. Credit: Belga.

As he approaches the ten-year anniversary of his attack on a crèche in Dendermonde in which two babies and a member of staff were killed, Kim De Gelder is almost certain to be interned in a psychiatric institution, a panel of court-appointed experts has decided. As well as the three killings in he Fabeltjesland crèche, De Gelder also admitted killing a 72-year-old woman in her home the previous day. He is serving a life sentence.

However he could soon become eligible for release, taking account of time served awaiting trial and the usual parole given even to killers. Since he has been adjudged to be “100% schizophrenic” by the panel of psychiatrists, they have concluded that internment is the only safe option for society.

In theory, internment is for an indeterminate period, with regular review. In practice, however, in a case like De Gelder’s, that indeterminate period would translate as “permanent”.

His own lawyer recognises the need for internment. In a report drawn up by the prison in Oudenaarde two years ago, the question of internment was raised. “Because there was nothing they could do with him,” lawyer Jaak Haentjes told TV Oost. “Not that he was misbehaving, but they found it impossible to involve him in the social life of the prison. It was just out of the question. He didn’t want it, said nothing, did nothing.”

In other words, De Gelder has shown no sign of rehabilitation compared to the withdrawn, uncooperative person he was at the time of his trial. Every prison sentence eventually reaches its end, but for the dangerously mentally ill, the alternative of internment exists for the protection of society.

The relatives of the victims, meanwhile, were not informed of any procedure pointing towards internment, according to their lawyer, Jef Vermassen.

“I was surprised to learn that this procedure has been under way for a year, because the victims know nothing about it,” he said. “It’s high time that relatives in this sort of case are kept informed. But that never happened.

“We don’t have to be involved in the decision-making, I agree completely with that. If the man is indeed mentally ill then he should be interned, that’s just simple logic. And if not, then he has to remain in prison. However keeping the families informed seems to me to be the most basic of victims’ rights.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times