The jury in the Valentin Vermeesch murder trial has begun a days-long deliberation that is expected to result on Friday in a reasoned decision on a guilty verdict.
The president of the Liège Assize Court, Judge Catherine Urbain, adjourned the trial of the five accused on Monday morning after sending the jurors into deliberations.
Valentin Vermeesch, an 18-year-old from Huy, who was also disabled, was killed on the night of 26 to 27 March 2017 in nearby Statte. After being subjected to a long sequence of violence and torture, he was pushed, with his hands handcuffed behind him, into the Meuse River, and drowned. Five persons, Alexandre Hart (21), Belinda Donnay (22), Dorian Daniels (22), Loick Masson (23) and Killian Wilmet (18) are on trial for his murder.
On Monday, trial judge Urbain gave the five accused a final opportunity to speak before providing a number of technical explanations on the jury’s deliberations.
The jury has been sent to a hotel that has been specially adapted so that the deliberations can be done behind closed doors and in the best of security conditions. The members of the jury and the substitute jurors will have no contact during the deliberations. The jurors are prohibited from having any contact with the outside world during the entire deliberation. Their mobile phones have been confiscated, while radios and television sets in the hotel have been deactivated.
The hotel has been reserved until Friday. When the deliberations are complete, the various parties will be informed, but a time lapse of many hours will be needed to summon the jury and the accused to the Liège Court of Justice, where the reasoned decision on the guilty verdict will be read at a public sitting.
The jury needs to answer 96 questions. Ninety-three relate to the main crimes of which the suspects are accused. The remaining three, which have to do with complicity, were added to the initial questionnaire at the request of the defence: four of the accused admitted to being present and participating in the abuse against Vermeesch but denied killing him.
The charges faced by the five include torture, inhuman treatment, rape, indecent assault, abduction, illegal detention, death threats, grievous bodily harm, and theft. The aggravating circumstance of the vulnerability of the victim can be added to each of these.
The criminal conviction could be issued on Friday.