An investigating magistrate on Thursday organised a reconstruction of the shooting incident in May last year which led to the death of the two-year-old Mawda Shawri (photo).
The reconstruction, held when witness reports of a serious incident vary widely, was held in a warehouse belonging to the Civil Defence force in Ghlin in Hainaut province. Present were not only the policeman who fired the fatal shot, but also Mawda’s father, who was with his family on board the van carrying them to Belgium.
Police had been tracking the van for 60km, as it was driven by a member of the gang of human traffickers bringing the Iraqi-Kurdish refugees to Belgium with the intention of moving on the United Kingdom. As they began a pursuit to stop the van, the driver took off at speed. Police gave chase, and one shot allegedly aimed at the tyres instead went through the back door of the vehicle and hit the child in the face. She died on the way to the hospital.
The reconstruction was carried out on the orders of the investigating magistrate in the case, to determine exactly how the incident took place. Both the driver of the van and the policeman who opened fire were present, as was the father of the child and his lawyer. Mawda’s mother was not present.
The alleged driver of the van denies being behind the wheel. At the time of the incident, he escaped capture by pretending to be one of the refugees being transported. He was later arrested in the UK and extradited to Belgium to face human trafficking charges. According to the prosecution, fingerprints and DNA were found on the van’s steering wheel and gearstick implicating him.
The police officer, who has not been named, claims his firearm went off by accident when his colleague who was driving made a sudden manoeuvre as the refugees’ van seemed about to leave the road. Ballistics evidence which tied the shot to the death of Mawda could not determine whether the shot was fired by accident or deliberately, and that will be one of the circumstances the reconstruction was intended to clarify.
“Everyone is looking for the truth in this drama,” said Thomas Gillis, the lawyer for the driver. “Many statements have been given, and the reconstruction aims to determine what value those statements have. This reconstruction has been of enormous value.”