Courts reject appeal of Belgian murderer convicted with racist motive

Tribunals in Ghent and in Oudenaarde today rejected applications by two convicted murderers for early release under electronic surveillance.

Hans Van Themsche (32)

In Oudenaarde in East Flanders, a sentencing tribunal rejected the request for early release, also under electronic surveillance via an ankle-band, of Hans Van Themsche, now aged 32.

In October 2007, Van Themsche became the first Belgian ever to be convicted of murder with the aggravating circumstance of a racist motivation.

In May 2006, Van Themsche, then aged 18, walked into a gun shop in Antwerp and bought a hunting rifle. He then went out and saw Oulematou Niangadou, a 24-year-old African woman from Mali, in Belgium as an au pair, who was with her two-year-old charge Luna Drowart.

Van Themsche opened fire, killing both. His shots also wounded a Turkish woman, Songül Koç, who had been sitting on a bench reading a book.

Van Themsche was then confronted by a police officer who demanded he lay down his weapon. When he refused, the police officer shot him in the stomach and he was arrested.

The court at his trial heard that he had confessed he was especially on the lookout for foreigners to shoot. It also heard that his grandfather had been a collaborator in World War Two, while his aunt was a member of the far-right Vlaams Belang.

The court took his confession as an aggravation of the crime of double murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The case, in particular the ease with which he had been able to go into a shop and walk out immediately with a rifle and ammunition, led to legislation severely restricting the obtaining of most types of firearm.

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Van Themsche’s application for early release with an ankle bracelet was opposed by the prosecution, and the tribunal followed their advice. He returns to prison to continue serving his sentence.

André Gyselbrecht (69)

André Gyselbrecht was convicted in 2019 for his part in the murder of his son-in-law, Stijn Saelens, in 2012. He was found to have ordered the murder, which was actually committed by a Dutch criminal who died of cancer before the trial took place.

Gyselbrecht was convicted of murder, but the usual life sentence was reduced to 21 years to take account of the time that had elapsed before the case came to trial.

Taking into account his time spent in prison on remand, he is now eligible to apply for early release, having served one-third of his sentence. In the hearing before the tribunal for the application of sentences, he was described as a model prisoner who, now aged 69, was unlikely to reoffend.

However the tribunal decided not to grant the request, in line with the objection from the prosecutor’s office, judging that the time is not right. He returns to prison in Beveren in East Flanders.

Gyselbrecht’s lawyer said they would resubmit an application later.

Meanwhile in Oudenaarde in East Flanders, another sentencing tribunal rejected the request for early release, also under electronic surveillance via an ankle-band, of Hans Van Themsche, now aged 32.

In October 2007, Van Themsche became the first Belgian ever to be convicted of murder with the aggravating circumstance of a racist motivation.

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In May 2006, Van Themsche, then aged 18, walked into a gun shop in Antwerp and bought a hunting rifle. He then went out and saw Oulematou Niangadou, a 24-year-old African woman from Mali, in Belgium as an au pair, who was with her two-year-old charge Luna Drowart.

Van Themsche opened fire, killing both. His shots also wounded a Turkish woman, Songül Koç, who had been sitting on a bench reading a book.

Van Themsche was then confronted by a police officer who demanded he lay down his weapon. When he refused, the police officer shot him in the stomach and he was arrested.

The court at his trial heard that he had confessed he was especially on the lookout for foreigners to shoot. It also heard that his grandfather had been a collaborator in World War Two, while his aunt was a member of the far-right Vlaams Belang.

The court took his confession as an aggravation of the crime of double murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The case, in particular the ease with which he had been able to go into a shop and walk out immediately with a rifle and ammunition, led to legislation severely restricting the obtaining of most types of firearm.

Van Themsche’s application for early release with an ankle bracelet was opposed by the prosecution, and the tribunal followed their advice. He returns to prison to continue serving his sentence.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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