Share article:
Share article:

Simon Lembi, missing since 1999, turns up safe and well

© Child Focus
An updated photo of Simon on a poster issued in 2013
© Child Focus

Simon Lembi went missing from his home in Saint-Gilles in Brussels in 1999, aged only 14. Now, 20 years on, he has been found alive and well. His was one of the first faces to appear on a missing persons poster by Child Focus (photo), created the year before after the shock of the Marc Dutroux case, which came to light in 1996 and where six missing girls were found, only two of them alive, and the White March, which brought 100,000 people onto the streets of Brussels to protest against police inaction.

Over the course of those 20 years, many more faces have appeared on Child Focus posters. Some 15,000 missing children and young people have been found. Some of them had not survived; most had. Others remain missing to this day. Simon’s case offered little hope: the boy had arrived in Belgium from Angola only days before, had no friends or other contacts here, and spoke little or no French. 

But as Alain Remue points out, Simon’s case proves that it’s never time to give up hope. Remue is the head of the Missing Persons unit of the federal police. He took the call in November last year that informed him Simon was alive and well. The call came from someone who had recognised him from his poster, which has used computer technology in some cases to artificially age young people who went missing a long time ago,

Remue had the story checked out, and found it was true.

Simon, it now appears, had left home at 14 of his own accord, because of the atmosphere at home. He has made a life for himself, and has now asked that the details be kept private. He has adopted a new name, and that as well as his place of residence and other identifying details remain confidential.

“An unbelievable result,” Remue called it. Interviewed by the VRT he said, “It’s almost impossible to believe this could happen, but it’s proof that you must never rule anything out.”

Most missing children cases either resolve within days or not at all. “I remember a case from years ago,” Remue said. “A Walloon girl held out for 13 months. That was improbably at the time, but this? This is more than improbable.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Experts call for more widespread use of masks as figures rise
As coronavirus figures continue to rise, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has suggested that people return to wearing masks when indoors with ...
Belgium wants to recover €420 million in wrongfully paid out coronavirus aid
The Belgian State intends to recover €420 million of unduly paid Covid-19 aid, La Libre Belgique reported on Thursday. The electronic Council of ...
Why the fight for transgender rights is polarising Europe 
Year after year, Samuel De Schepper would ask Santa Claus to bring him a penis for Christmas. Born female and attending an all girl’s Catholic ...
New offshore wind farm officially opened
Despite being operational since the end of 2020, the SeaMade offshore wind farm was officially inaugurated on Wednesday by Prime Minister Alexander ...
Contact tracers have no time for calls, only texts, amid rising cases
Contract tracers will no longer make phone calls to the high-risk contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus beginning from Wednesday, ...
Belgium holds on to top spot in FIFA rankings despite recent losses
Once again, Belgium's Red Devils have held onto their position at the top of the world football rankings, according to an update released by the ...
Proximus pushes for high-speed internet in Brussels and Wallonia
Fifteen municipalities in Wallonia should soon have access to high-speed internet through the rollout of fibre optics in the region, telecoms giant ...
Why Belgium is regulating sex work
After decades of confusing rules and hypocritical policy, Belgium is finally regulating sex work by removing prostitution from the criminal law. ...
World’s largest chocolate warehouse opens in Flanders
On Thursday, Barry Callebaut – the largest global chocolate processor and manufacturer – opened the world's largest chocolate warehouse in Lokeren, ...
Belgium in Brief: Equal Opportunity To Dance
There's a phrase where I'm from, more often said in jest nowadays, but it came to my mind this morning: "Ye dancin'?" (Are you dancing?), one ...
Farmer discovers cocaine in banana boxes bought in Brussels
A Flemish farmer who purchased boxes of bananas at the market in Brussels on Tuesday came home to discover large amounts of cocaine packed among the ...
Changes to speed cameras increase likelihood of a ticket
Changes to the way speed cameras work in Flanders and Wallonia will increase the likelihood of receiving a ticket when cars pass them above the ...