Father of murdered teen issues open letter attacking sentence
Share article:
Share article:

Father of murdered teen issues open letter attacking sentence

© Belga
Jef Vermassen
© Belga

Steven Pans, the father of the 14-year-old Eline murdered by her mother, has issued a heartfelt and angry open letter after his daughter’s killer, his estranged wife Mehrnaz Didgar, walked away from a guilty verdict with only a five-year suspended sentence. Didgar was sentenced on Thursday, after the prosecution had demanded a relatively light 26 years – the normal tariff for premeditated murder is life imprisonment – and left Hasselt prison on Friday morning.

In his letter, Pans writes, “The verdict came down: guilty of intentional homicide with malice aforethought. But the sentence at the end sounded, to my ears, as ‘Let her go. She has served 22 months in prison already, and that is enough’.”

Didgar had been in prison in Hasselt on remand, and indeed her sentence came as a shock, not only because she had freely admitted guilt in killing her own daughter with a plastic bag over her head, but the sentence decided by the jury was exactly that requested by defence lawyer Jef Vermassen during the sentencing hearing.

“Cutting off a defenceless, vulnerable person’s breath for 15 minutes, the whole thing prepared with premeditation, was not enough reason to keep someone in prison for longer,” he writes. “I would not wish to be a child in this society.”

And in contrast to the lenient sentence for the killer, he concludes “the toughest punishment, a life sentence, for the father, the family and friends.”

Attorney Vermassen, meanwhile, adds the remarkable result to his impressive record of arguing before a criminal court, and in particular a jury. He showed little sympathy, however, for the father’s cri de cœur. Speaking on VTM news, he told the dead girl’s family to mind their own business.

“The first phase [of the trial] is concerned with the question of guilt. Then the civil parties have their say. The guilt is then declared, they may be involved in ascertaining guilt, according to the law”. Afterwards, however, the matter of sentencing is for the jury and the court. “The civil party ought then to remain silent.”

Meanwhile Didgar has left prison to remain free, on condition she undergo psychological counselling. She has expressed a wish to leave Belgium and go to the developing world to work with an aid agency which has some use for her training as a doctor – she was a respected neurosurgeon at the university hospital in Leuven, and in fact counted Jef Vermassen among her patients.

But, asked Het Nieuwsblad, can a convicted murderer still practice as a doctor? “First, the Order of Physicians has to pronounce,” the paper quotes the deputy president of the order, Michel Deneyer. The court automatically sends its verdict to the regional office of the order, which then considers the gravity of the case and whether it tends to damage the reputation of the profession. They may decide to strike Didgar off the register, or they may not. In either case she will be informed, but the decision will not be made public. The order’s verdict is then sent to corresponding professional bodies in other EU member states.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Belgium’s Consultative Committee to meet early this week
The next meeting of Belgium's Consultative Committee, scheduled for Friday, has been brought forward to Tuesday at 4:30 PM, according to local media ...
Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Unilever are world’s biggest plastic polluters
Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Unilever were found to be the world's biggest polluters of plastic in a report published by Branded on Monday. Over 11,000 ...
Four men charged with illegally buying thousands of live ducks to hunt on private land
Four Belgian men will appear in court on Monday facing charges related to the purchase of thousands of ducks, which were then released into a private ...
More wolf attacks: 15 deer killed at family resort over the weekend
Fifteen deer were killed by wolves in the Belgian province of Limburg this weekend, between Saturday night and Sunday morning. The deer were ...
Cost of breast cancer still too high for many patients
Breast cancer still carries too high a cost for patients when one in nine women in Belgium will face the disease before reaching 75, according to a ...
Gare Maritime: Brussels’ most exciting new architectural project
A generation ago, the Gare Maritime in the Tour & Taxis industrial site was an abandoned wasteland. It is now a model for urban renewal and ...
Person hit by train in Brussels
A person was hit by a train in the tunnel between Brussels North and Brussels Central at around 10:20 AM on Monday, railway network manager Infrabel ...
Belgium in Brief: Rules For A Fourth Wave
It's the news that nobody wants to hear, but here we go again. Belgium’s council of ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss ...
Belgian grandparents to walk across Scotland for COP26
A group of Belgian grandparents has set off on a 100 km hike that will take them from Belgium to the Scottish city of Glasgow, just ahead of the ...
Rise in fuel prices will bring Belgian State €547 million in tax, say Workers Party
The sharp rise in fuel prices that have been felt across the continent will bring an additional €547 million to the Belgian State, the Workers' Party ...
Amid backlash, Brussels police chief promises to do better for sexual assault victims
After multiple rallies against sexual violence took place in Brussels last week, with victims offering testimony of poor treatment from police when ...
Hire bikes and scooters: Brussels Parliament wants to restore order
Majority parties in the Brussels Parliament plan to enact new rules allowing communes to set specific and mandatory parking spaces for hire bikes and ...