Suspect in murder of Julie Van Espen had been twice convicted for rape
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Suspect in murder of Julie Van Espen had been twice convicted for rape

The man arrested Monday concerning the murder of a 23-year-old student had already been twice convicted for sexual assault but had seen his second case postponed “indefinitely,” Justice Minister Koen Geens said Tuesday.

In a statement released by his cabinet, the minister said the suspect had served four and a half years in prison, for a series of offences, including the rape of a woman.

He explained that in 2016,  he was again committed for theft and rape, for which he spent two and a half months in detention, awaiting trial.

Geens, who expressed regret over the matter and offered his sympathies to the victim’s family, explained that Antwerp’s correctional courts sentenced the suspect to four more years imprisonment, but that he was not immediately arrested, and appealed his case.

According to the statement, the suspect’s case was then indefinitely postponed in November of 2018.

“Although in the first instance the case was decided very quickly, this was not the case in the appeal procedure,” Geen’s statement reads. “I very much regret that.”

Geens statement says the case is under ongoing investigation.

On Monday, the body of 23-year-old Julie Van Espen was found in Antwerp’s Albert canal. She had gone missing Saturday after she left her home in nearby Schilde around 18:30 by bike to meet with friends, but she never arrived.

The 39-year-old suspect, identified as Steve B., was arrested in Leuven on Monday after police spread CCTV images of him asking for information.

 
Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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