Saturday, January 24, 2009
Prosecutor Christian Du Four has released more details on the fatal stabbing in a day care center in East Flanders, Belgium, yesterday, in which two children (six and nine months old) and one employee were killed. Ten children and two adults were injured.
The alleged perpetrator, a 20-year-old man from nearby Sint-Niklaas, was arrested in the neighbouring municipality of Lebbeke shortly after the crime. Belgian news website nieuwsblad.be have named the arrested man as Kim De Gelder.
The attacker wore a bullet-proof vest under his clothes and a backpack containing a knife, an axe and a fake pistol. Two other knives were found near the crime scene.
The prosecutor confirmed that the man’s face was painted white with blackened eyes as he committed the crime, which led international media to make comparisons to the Joker, the villain from the Batman series.
“I have a question,” the killer told the first employee he encountered, after which he immediately stabbed her, and started his rampage. One female day care worker attempted to disarm the killer while others locked the doors. The killer stabbed employees trying to carry children to safety.
The arrested man is not cooperating with the investigation and has not confessed. The prosecutor described his attitude as “passive”. “He says nothing to his questioners. He is absolutely uncooperative,” the prosecutor explained. Yesterday, media reported that the killer was laughing at the officers who were questioning him, but the prosecutor today denied these speculations.
According to the crime scene investigation, the man entered the building through an unlocked side-entrance which gave immediate access to the room with the babies. He stabbed several of them, then went to another room where he stabbed other children. He then fled on the bicycle on which he had arrived.
Panic struck in Dendermonde amidst fears that the man would attack more crèches or schools. There were reports that the killer carried a note with names and addresses of other day care centres or schools nearby, something which the prosecutor could not comment on. The Associated Press says three judicial officials anonymously confirmed that the attacker carried addresses of three other nurseries. Following news of the stabbings, all schools in Dendermonde were ordered to keep all gates shut.
Eyewitness Hans Staelens told reporters that he had noticed a suspicious character in the street where the day care centre ‘Fable Land’ was located. He described him as “not too tall, thin, red hair, dark eyes, like make-up”.
The alleged killer lived alone and was unemployed, but does not have a criminal record. “There is no element whatsoever that makes us believe he has a psychiatric history,” the prosecutor told the press at a conference today. He has commissioned three psychiatrists to examine the man. Kim D. was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
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One child and one woman died in the day care centre itself, with another child dying in hospital. All injured are reported to be in stable condition. Three children and one adult remain in intensive care. Five others also remain hospitalised, although several are expected to be discharged at some point during the weekend.
54-year-old Marita Blindeman, who was killed in the attack, worked in the day care centre, which was sponsored by social services, since she was 18. Since the death of her father, she lived with, and took care of, both her mother and her sister, who has a learning disability. Just two years ago, she started having a relationship with a man, according to her son in a letter to newspapers.
Only six of the 18 children in the crèche, all under the age of three, were uninjured. Meanwhile, the decision has been taken not to reopen the day care centre, but to provide day care in other facilities. Six employees were present during the attack.
Friday evening, the Belgian crown prince and his wife visited the crime scene. The couple, who have four children, were moved deeply by the killings.
Some hundred people have signed a mourning registry in Dendermonde’s city hall, and flowers and teddy bears were left at the day care centre. A silent demonstration is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon and a mourning ceremony will be held on Monday evening.
Several media outlets have discussed the safety of day care centres. Minister Veerle Heeren said she would consider additional safety measures if the investigation suggests it, but also added that, “a day care centre should be a haven, not a prison.”