TV documentary could threaten 22-year-old murder case, say prosecutors
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TV documentary could threaten 22-year-old murder case, say prosecutors

Sally Van Hecke

A documentary made for the VTM series Cold Case could jeopardise an ongoing murder investigation, the Antwerp prosecutor’s office has claimed. Sally Van Hecke (pictured), aged 20 and the mother of a two-year-old, was brutally murdered in Antwerp’s Linkeroever district in August 1996. An eight-year intensive investigation included 800 tips from the public, numerous investigative warrants carried out by police in Germany and the Netherlands and the help of the true-crime programme Oproep 2020.

But the killer was never found, and in 2005 the case was shelved. No active investigations have been carried out since that time, although tips are always followed up, the prosecutor’s office said.

In 2016, however, Sally’s mother was contacted by journalist Kurt Wertelaers, who claimed to have new leads. Those were given over to the prosecutor’s office in 2017, and the decision was taken to revisit the case, now with the help of new techniques and scientific advances developed over the intervening 12 years.

“That investigation is now fully operational, but we are spreading our net more widely,” a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office told Het Nieuwsblad. “A forensic expert from the national criminology institute NICC has screened the entire dossier, and thanks to the evolution of the science, new leads have come to light which are being fully investigated.”

The documentary, made by Wertelaers and colleague Karel Lattrez, claims to have examined all of the evidence, interviewed witnesses and spoken to experts in order to reconstruct the investigation and come to a conclusion regarding the identity of the killer, who happens to have been an early suspect, who is now currently in prison for the murders of two other women.

The prosecutor fears that evidence revealed in the documentary, without regard to the rules of evidence or the presumption of innocence, could jeopardise any future trial of the prime suspect or anyone else. The office is reported to be considering a legal request for the programme to be shelved – a procedure of prior restraint which is rarely approved in Belgium.

Meanwhile Sally’s mother Lydia De Decker has only one desire: “I want to know finally who my daughter’s killer is. I want to be able to put a face to him, rather than a photo-fit picture of a possible suspect,” she told VTM.

The five-part series Cold Case begins on VTM on 7 February at 2145. 

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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