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The Brabant killers ("De Bende van Nijvel" or "de Bende" in Dutch, "Les Tueurs du Brabant" or "les Tueurs fous du Brabant wallon" or "les Tueurs fous du Brabant" in French) is a group or groups thought to be responsible for the "Brabant massacres", a series of violent attacks that occurred mostly in the province of Brabant in Belgium between 1982 and 1985, in which 28 people died and over 20 others were injured.
The killers carried out armed robberies of restaurants, stores, supermarkets and one weapons depot. What set the gang apart was their readiness to commit murder for no reason and their apparent lack of a normal criminal orientation towards stealing the maximum amount of money for the minimum risk. This led to suspicions that it represented an effort to destabilize the country coming from disgruntled members of the Belgian Gendarmerie ("Rijkswacht" in Dutch, "Gendarmerie" in French), a paramilitary police force then supervised by the Belgian Minister of Defense. Some of the weapons used to carry out the murders had been stolen from a Belgian Gendarmerie arsenal in 1979.
According to the survivors' eyewitness testimony, the gang was composed of three recurring gangleaders, assisted by a larger group of changing people.
The three gangleaders were commonly called:
- the Giant,
- the Killer (who killed 23 out of the total 28 victims) and
- the Old Man.
However some of the earlier crimes are mainly linked by the weapons used or stolen which leaves open a possibility of the guns having been previously rented or sold and hence stolen and used by otherwise unconnected criminal gangs or individuals before passing into the hands of the actual Brabant killers.
The identity and the whereabouts of the killers remain unknown.
Overview of crimes attributed to the gang
- March 13: theft at a retail store in Dinant, Belgium. A hunting rifle was stolen. No people killed. The rifle was never used during the attacks, but was found five years later, together with the other weapons of the Brabant killers.
- August 14: armed robbery of a grocery store in Maubeuge, France. Tea and wine were stolen. No people killed, two French Gendarmerie-officers wounded.
- September 30: armed robbery of a weapons dealer in Wavre, Belgium. Fifteen firearms were stolen, including several machine guns. One policeman was killed, two other wounded.
- December 23: armed robbery of a restaurant in Beersel, Belgium. Coffee and wine were stolen. One person was tortured to death.
- January 9: car-jacking of a cab in Brussels. The car was found in Mons, Belgium. The purse of the taxi driver was stolen, the taxi driver was killed.
- February 11: armed robbery of a supermarket in Rixensart, Belgium. Less than $18,000.00 was stolen. No people killed, several wounded.
- February 25: armed robbery of a supermarket in Uccle, Belgium. Less than $16,000.00 was stolen. No people killed.
- March 3: armed robbery of a supermarket in Halle, Belgium. Less than $18,000.00 was stolen. One staff member was killed.
- May 7: armed robbery of a supermarket in Houdeng-Gougnies, Belgium. Less than $22,000.00 was stolen. No people killed.
- September 10: armed robbery of a textile factory in Temse, Belgium. Seven bullet-proof jackets were stolen. One worker was killed, his wife severely wounded.
- September 17: armed robbery of a supermarket in Nivelles, Belgium. Nothing was stolen. Three people were killed.
- October 2: armed robbery of a restaurant in Ohain, Belgium. Nothing was stolen. The owner was killed.
- October 7: armed robbery of a supermarket in Beersel, Belgium. Less than $35,000.00 was stolen. One customer was killed.
- December 1: armed robbery of a jeweller in Anderlues, Belgium. Some low-value jewels were stolen. Two people were killed.
After almost two years (666 days) of silence, the gang began a new series of robberies. The attacks of 1985 were the most violent since the beginning of the crimes in 1982.
- Friday September 27, approximately 20:00: armed robbery and a killing in the Delhaize supermarket on rue de la Graignette in Braine-l'Alleud. Less than $6,000.00 was stolen. Three people were killed, two people wounded.
- Friday September 27, approximately 20:30 (only 15 to 25 minutes after the first attack that night): armed robbery and a killing in the Delhaize supermarket on Brusselsesteenweg in Overijse. Less than $25,000.00 was stolen. Five people were killed, one person wounded.
- Saturday November 9, approximately 19:30: armed robbery and a killing in the Delhaize supermarket on Parklaan in Aalst. Less than $25,000.00 was stolen. Eight people were killed, a few more people wounded.
The Brabant killers were mentioned as linked to the neo-Nazi organization Westland New Post (WNP), which aimed to destabilize Belgian society and provoke civil unrest in order "to establish a government lead by ultra-conservatives of the Parti Social-Chrétien".
This theory is based on rumours about the neo-Nazi connections of the Gendarmerie in Brussels as well as on the "military precision" of the attacks. All Gendarmerie officers were trained in military law enforcement and commando actions.
The controversial Belgian nobleman Benoit de Bonvoisin, known as the "Black Baron", was named as one of the possible financiers of the Brabant killers. It has been suggested that the alleged suicide of Westland New Post leader Paul Latinus on April 24, 1984, may have actually been a camouflaged murder by the Brabant killers.
The gang was also mentioned as linked to the communist CCC (Cellules Communistes Combattantes), though that organization's methods (bombings in which authorities were notified in advance) were not used in these crimes.
The massacre of Brabant has also been linked to a conspiracy among the Belgian "stay-behind" network SDRA8 (Gladio) — operating as a secret branch of the Belgian military service — the Belgian Gendarmerie SDRA6 and the US secret service Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
Some high-placed investigators believed—and some still believe—that these crimes were "pre-emptive actions" against the communist threat in Western Europe. These actions were hence linked to Operation Gladio, part of a large paramilitary network, created and supported by NATO, which was active in many European countries to counter all kinds of communist operations. However, the Belgian parliamentary inquiry into Gladio found no substantive evidence that Gladio was involved in any terrorist acts or that criminal groups had infiltrated the stay-behind network.
The NATO 'Stay Behind' explanation for the Brabant massacres was explored in a 1992 BBC Timewatch series 'Operation Gladio' directed by Allan Frankovich. One member of the Belgian armed forces interviewed, for example, recounted being ordered to make a covert reconnaissance of one of the supermarkets which was subsequently attacked.
Another theory is based on one of Belgium's most famous urban legends, the so-called pink ballets ("roze balletten" in Dutch). These "Pink Ballets" were supposedly sex parties, mostly with young underaged girls and boys, which several eminent members of the Belgian high society were said to have participated in, including noblemen, high civil servants, politicians, ministers, business leaders and policemen.
Real-estate magnate Jacques Fourez and his secretary Elise Dewit, who were killed by the Brabant killers in 1983, were supposed to have secret tapes of these parties. The killings of Jacques van Camp, Léon Finné and Constantin Angelou were also brought into connection with the "Pink Ballets". (Possibly related to Dutroux murders)
This theory is linked to illegal gun-running, which was in the 1980s one of the mafia's core businesses in Cold War Europe. The murdered banker Léon Finné (in Overijse) was involved in illegal gun traffic.
In 2004, the police found some abandoned weaponry, clothing and jewellery in the Bois de la Houssière, the forest where the three main suspects were spotted for the last time in 1985. In 2005, after an anonymous tip off, the investigators hoped to find the buried corpse of one of the three gang leaders in the same forest, without any success. In 2006, in the south of France, the homes of several notorious criminals were searched in order to find a new lead. Among these suspects was the criminal and former Gendarmerie member Madani Bouhouche, who died a few months before the house-search in a chainsaw accident while cutting a tree in his garden. In January 2009, searches targeting weaponry led to the discovery of human bones, speculated to be those of the gang member wounded by police. However the remains are now believed to be far older.
In 2015, all these crimes will expire and no judicial measures against the gang will be possible. The crimes would have expired in the year 2000, but the Belgian Parliament passed two special acts to extend the investigation.
In 2014, Belgian police arrested a man purported to be one of the killers
Westland New Post
In October 2014, the Belgian police apprehended Michel Libert, the former no. 2 of the extreme right wing organization Westland New Post. He was interrogated as a suspect in the Brabant killers case and his house was searched. The Belgian public television station RTBF alleged that Westland New Post had performed reconnaissance actions on the stores that later would be attacked by the Brabant killers. M. Libert had previously been interviewed several times as a witness. He left the court as a free man. The search of his house did not reveal anything that pointed to a possible connection with the Brabant Killers.
- "Secrets untold < Belgian news | Expatica Belgium". Expatica.com. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
- "Peut-on dire que l'on tient l'un des tueurs du Brabant?". RTBF. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- (Dutch) Gazet Van Antwerpen/Belga (2014). "Gewezen lid extreemrechtse groepering ondervraagd over Bende van Nijvel (Former member extreme right group interrogated about Brabant Killers)".
- (Dutch) Gazet Van Antwerpen/Belga (2014). "Ex-kopstuk Westland New Post vrijgelaten (Former leader Westland New Post released)".
- Chronologie des faits attribués aux tueurs du Brabant page 21-22
- bendevannijvel.com/forum » Forum
- Belgian Chamber of Representatives, parliamentary investigation into the Brabant killers. (French) (Dutch)
- Belgian Chamber of Representatives, parliamentary investigation into banditism. (French) (Dutch)
- Belgian Senate, parliamentary investigation into Gladio. (French) (Dutch)
- Belgian Senate, parliamentary investigation into private militias.(French) (Dutch)