Brabant Killers victims criticise decision to close case after 40 years

Relatives of the victims of the Brabant Killers gang have described their disappointment at the announcement that the investigation into the case was being closed. The series of deadly robberies in 1983 and 1985 in which 28 people were killed remains unsolved.

Lawyer Kristiaan Vandenbussche represents several civil parties who were victims of an attack on the Delhaize supermarket in Aalst on 9 November 1985, in which eight people were killed. “We, the families, must accept this announcement, but it is not an acceptable decision,” he said. “Justice has failed to find the culprits.” 

Patricia Finné, the daughter of Léon Finné, who was shot dead at Delhaize in Overijse in September 1985, did not hide her anger following the decision by the federal public prosecutor’s office. “From the beginning of the investigation, many mistakes were made. And as soon as an investigation starts badly, it ends badly,” she said.

"We, the families, must accept this announcement, but it is not an acceptable decision"

Some 80 relatives of the victims were told on Friday that the investigation was being closed. "There was absolute silence in the room,” Finné said. “If they haven’t found [the truth] after 40 years, it’s because they haven't looked in the right direction. The truth exists somewhere. For me, it’s not over yet.”

Unlike other victims, she does not believe the police or judiciary were corrupt, although she questions mistakes made at the beginning of the investigation.

Christine Nijs, who lost her brother and niece in the Aalst robbery, said: “We have a little faith in the investigation if someone is still working on it. But there’s no one left now. That means we’ll never get answers, and we’ll never get justice either.” 

The criminal gang, known as the Brabant Killers – Bende van Nijvel in Dutch or Tueurs du Brabant in French – murdered 28 people and injured more than 40 in a series of violent robberies, until they disappeared overnight in 1985. The group usually comprised three disguised men known as “the Giant”, “the Killer” and their getaway driver, “the Old Man”.

The attack in Aalst was their last and deadliest. The crimes remain unsolved

Irena Palsterman, who as a child witnessed the attack in Aalst in which her father was killed, called the decision “a disgrace”. “Today we bury Lady Justice,” she said. Jan Palsterman, 40, was fatally shot in the supermarket’s car park. Moments before, he had sent his two children inside while he filled his car with petrol. 

"We’ll never get answers, and we’ll never get justice either"

Many of the victims believe that not all leads were properly pursued and that the investigation was not handled logically, transparently or sensitively.

“I, and many victims, still feel that the case was influenced and that some things were not allowed to come out,” Nijs said. “I think someday something will come out, but consequences will not be possible then. No one will ever be punished for this.” 

Lawyer Peter Callebaut, who represented some of the victims, called it "incomprehensible" that no conclusive evidence has been found. "For 40 years, all possible services have made efforts and carried out countless acts of investigation. And then they find nothing? I don't believe that," he said. "This is a disgrace for Belgian justice, and for politics."

The office of federal Justice minister Paul Tigchelt has not commented on the decision.


Christine Nijs talks to journalists at a press conference to announce the closure of the investigation into the Brabant Killers, 28 June 2024 in Brussels © BELGA PHOTO /VIDEO JUAN GODBILLE

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