Hundreds attend memorial for 9-year-old Raul in Ghent

A memorial was held in Ghent on Wednesday for Raul, the nine-year-old boy who was found dead in the Houtdok in the city last week. More than 300 people attended the service organised by the city council and paper flowers were planted in the sand in his memory.

Ghent is staggered by the boy’s death, according to mayor Mathias De Clercq. “We are all very touched by the death of little Raul,” he said on Monday. “Everyone is shocked at what happened to this boy. We all sympathise with those who knew and loved him.”

"We want to send the message that Raul should never be forgotten"

Raul, from Romania, is alleged to have suffered serious violent abuse, but the East Flanders public prosecutor’s office has not yet given details of the autopsy. His body was pulled from the water on 13 April. He had been stuffed into a sports bag and is thought to have been dumped at the end of January, but his disappearance only came to light after relatives living abroad raised the alarm.

His mother, referred to as Yoana M, was arrested last week by the investigating judge in Ghent on suspicion of manslaughter and disposal of a body, among other charges. Her ex-boyfriend, known as Nicu C, was arrested in the Netherlands on Friday and is expected to be surrendered to Belgium next week.

Raul’s family also attended Wednesday’s event. Flowers were placed in the sand, alongside candles, soft toys and cards, and De Clercq announced plans for a permanent memorial. “We are going to look into it with the family. We want to send the message that Raul should never be forgotten,” he said. “It is unacceptable for children to be abused and killed. The judicial investigation is being conducted very thoroughly and I have confidence in it. There will be conclusions and this must never happen again.”

Meanwhile, Flemish minister of Welfare, Public Health and Family Hilde Crevits (CD&V) told Parliament on Wednesday that Raul had not been known to authorities such as the family support agency Opgroeien. “It is very important that we learn lessons from this for other anonymous Rauls,” she said. She intends to carry out a review of the possible factors that played a role in his death.

"A large proportion of children remain under the radar"

“Child abuse is a severely underestimated problem,” Wim Van de Voorde of the 1712 helpline told Het Laatste Nieuws. “Research in the Netherlands from 2017 showed that at least 3 per cent of children there experience a serious form of abuse. We can assume the same in our country. So a large proportion of children remain under the radar. Nor are the figures falling. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to take responsibility.”

Anyone who is concerned about child abuse can report it or seek advice by calling 1712.



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