The ongoing trial of a group of five individuals accused of torturing and murdering a disabled 18-year-old has shed light on the gruesome chain of events that resulted in the death of young Valentin Vermeesch.
Valentin’s body was fished out of La Meuse river in the town of Huy on April 14, 2017, after he was reported missing a week prior. His hands were tied behind his back, and he had a kitchen towel wrapped tightly around his neck.
The five accused, the youngest of whom was 16 at the time of the events, delivered their testimonies in a highly publicised trial at the criminal court of Liège.
On the night of the 26 to the 27 of March 2017, the group of five friends lured Valentin, who suffered from a light mental handicap, into one of their apartments.
After forcing him to drink large quantities of alcohol and smoke marijuana, all five proceeded to repeatedly beat, torture and inflict sexually degrading acts on him, some of which they captured on film.
On Tuesday, one of the accused delivered a detailed and chilling account of how all five of them took turns to verbally, physically and sexually abuse Valentin.
He described how they forced him to sexually pleasure himself and to eat food they had dipped in an ashtray, threatening him and cutting him with a knife when he offered resistance.
As the hours passed, Valentin’s abusers resorted to more cruel actions, such as burning their victim’s face and genitals with a lighter whenever he passed out from the pain.
What the five young men and the young woman who stand accused said started out as a prank on Valentin quickly turned awry.
Alexander Hart, who testified on Tuesday, is being referred to as the leader of the group, and has captured media attention for the cold and impassive way in which he recounted the events.
According to Hart’s testimony, they did not originally intend to kill him but, when they realised they had gone too far, opted to throw him in the river. He was alive but still tied-up.
Hart, 21, said he was the one who pushed Valentin into the river with assistance from Belinda Donnay, 22.
Valentin’s parents attended Tuesday’s hearing, and Belgian media reported that the coldly-delivered account of the murder and torture of their son forced his mother to leave the room repeatedly, and had his father in tears.
On Thursday, Liège’s criminal court said it would review footage of the events in a closed viewing, found in the tablet of the youngest of the accused, who was 16 years old at the time of the events.