Dendermonde nursery attack

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Dendermonde nursery attack
Dendermonde location map.png
Dendermonde shown within Belgium
Location Sint-Gillis-bij-Dendermonde,
Dendermonde, Belgium
Coordinates 51°1′10″N 4°6′40″E / 51.01944°N 4.11111°E / 51.01944; 4.11111Coordinates: 51°1′10″N 4°6′40″E / 51.01944°N 4.11111°E / 51.01944; 4.11111
Date 23 January 2009
10:00 a.m. (CET)
Attack type
Murder, stabbing
Deaths 3
Non-fatal injuries
13 (including the attacker)
Perpetrator Kim De Gelder

The Dendermonde nursery attack was a stabbing attack on the Fabeltjesland daycare centre in the Flemish village of Sint-Gillis-bij-Dendermonde in Dendermonde, Belgium, at 10:00 a.m. CET (9:00 a.m. UTC) on 23 January 2009. Three people were stabbed to death,[1] and twelve were mutilated in the attack.[2] The suspect has been linked to a separate murder of an elderly lady and police have suggested he was plotting more nursery attacks. The daycare centre where the initial attack occurred is expected never to reopen.[3]


Kim De Gelder, a 20-year-old Belgian from Sinaai, entered the Fabeltjesland nursery, located in Sint-Gillis-bij-Dendermonde in Dendermonde, Belgium, through an unlocked side-door, claiming that he had a question to ask. He then entered one of the rooms and began attacking small children before moving to another room.[2] The man was reported to be wearing black-and-white makeup with his hair vividly colored red, similar to that of the Joker (who, however, has green hair and white and red facial features).[4] De Gelder's attorney, Jaak Haentjens, later formally denied any link to "the Joker", attributing the claims of face paint to De Gelder's pale skin.[5] Kim De Gelder was, in the eyes of his friends and colleagues, a silent boy, who never said anything.[6]

A total of eighteen infants under the age of three and six adults were in the nursery at the time of the attack.[2][7] Two infants and one adult were killed;[2][8] six children, all between one and three years old, were seriously injured; another four suffered minor injuries; and nine escaped unscathed.[9] The alleged perpetrator left the scene on his bike.


  • Leon Garcia-Mannaert, a nine-month-old boy,
  • Corneel Vermeir, a nine-month-old boy,
  • Marita Blindeman, a 54-year-old child minder.[10]

Initial reports on Belgian television suggested that five people had been killed and twenty others had been injured,[11] with government officials only confirming the death of one adult and one child.[12] This number was later increased, as another infant had died from the injuries he had sustained. It has also been reported that some of the surviving children have needed plastic surgery due to serious mutilations.[13]

Arrest and aftermath[edit]

A massive search operation was mounted,[14] and a man was captured by police a short while later, in the nearby town of Lebbeke.[15] Having been wounded during his capture, the man was taken to a hospital in Aalst, Belgium.[16] Police reported that he was carrying a list of nurseries, of which they suspect he may have been planning to attack as well.[17]

Piet Buyse - 5 year memorial Dendermonde nursery attack on 23 January 2009

The mayor of Dendermonde, Piet Buyse, said, "The victims are being cared for and those who were not injured have been brought to a centre where they are receiving counseling."[18]

At a press conference on the evening of the attack, public prosecutor Christian Du Four provided the following information about the alleged offender, denying several early rumours:[19][20][21] [22]

Some 6,000 people marched through Dendermonde on 25 January 2009, laying hundreds of bouquets and stuffed animals outside the daycare centre as the Mayor of Dendermonde, Piet Buyse, announced that the Fabeltjesland nursery would never reopen.[3]

The attacker[edit]

Kim De Gelder was identified as the attacker on 25 January 2009.[24] De Gelder confided in his attorney, stating that he had been troubled by depression as a teenager and at one point heard voices in his head. Regardless, a psychiatrist had concluded that he did not need to be sent to a mental institution.[17]

On 26 January 2009, Belgian officials named De Gelder as the primary suspect in a further, fourth murder, where a 73-year-old woman was stabbed to death in her apartment in Beveren, near Antwerp, on 16 January. Prosecutor Christian Du Four told journalists that there were "very clear indications of links between the murders",[25] though De Gelder denies any involvement.[26] Police have stated that he was planning attacks on other nurseries.[27]

On 27 January, De Gelder admitted to the attacks.[28] The media originally reported that De Gelder was wearing makeup at the time of the attack, making him look like the Joker character from the Batman films, but police have not confirmed that depiction.[28] In further media reports, De Gelder reportedly watched The Dark Knight an unusually high number of times ("film obsession"),[29] appears to have quoted the character Harvey Dent at the start of the attack, and committed the attacks on the one-year anniversary of Heath Ledger's death. Both police investigators and De Gelder's lawyer have made statements dismissing such as relevant to his motive in the attack. [30]

On 22 March 2013, a jury declared De Gelder was fully accountable for the attack and found him guilty of four counts of murder.[31] He was sentenced to life imprisonment the following day.[32]


  • Italian singer Luciano Ligabue dedicated a song to the victims, Quando mi vieni a prendere? (Dendermonde 23/01/09) inserted in his 2010 album, Arrivederci, Mostro!.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Het Laatste Nieuws, (Belgium)
  2. ^ a b c d van de Velde, Antonia (2009-01-23). "Three die in Belgian child care center attack". Reuters. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  3. ^ a b "Thousands mourn murdered children". Irish Independent. 2009-01-25. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  4. ^ Auteur: Steven De Bock (2009-01-24). "De Standaard Online - Dader lacht gruwel weg". Retrieved 2010-09-18. 
  5. ^ "HLN Drama Dendermonde - Advocaat wil diepgaand onderzoek psychiatrisch verleden De Gelder (644263)". Retrieved 2010-09-18. 
  6. ^ Auteur: mcu, me, kld. "De Standaard Online - 'Ouders De Gelder vroegen al opname psychiatrie'". Retrieved 2010-09-18. 
  7. ^ "Deaths in Belgium knife attack". Al Jazeera. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  8. ^ "Fatal stabbings at Belgian crèche". BBC. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  9. ^ Waterfield, Bruno; Bingham, John (2009-01-24). "Belgium 'joker' creche killer snorted with laughter in police interrogation Belgium's suspected "joker" killer snorted with laughter when interrogated by police about a frenzied knife attack that left a woman and two babies, aged six months and nine months, dead.". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-01.  horizontal tab character in |title= at position 78 (help)
  10. ^ (AFP) – 23 janv. 2009. "AFP: Belgique: la tuerie de Termonde commise par un fan du "Joker de Batman" ?". Retrieved 2010-09-18. 
  11. ^ "Five reported dead in knife attack". UPI. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  12. ^ Squires, Nick (2009-01-23). "Five dead in knife attack at Belgian crèche". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ Castle, Stephen (2009-01-23). "3 killed in knife attack at Belgian day-care center". IHT. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  15. ^ Martens, John (2009-01-23). "Two Babies, One Adult Die in Belgian Nursery Attack (Update1)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  16. ^ Lekic, Slobodan (2009-01-23). "3 Dead, 10 Wounded in Belgium Day Care Stabbings". ABC. Archived from the original on February 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  17. ^ a b "Belgian 'admits crèche murders'". BBC. 2009-01-27. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  18. ^ "Three killed in knife attack at Belgian crèche". AFP. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  19. ^ Charter, David (2009-01-23). "Babies and adult killed in knife attack at Belgian nursery". London: The Times. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  20. ^ Het Laatste Nieuws
  21. ^ "Knife attacker murders nursery children". Irish Independent. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  22. ^ Squires, Nick (2009-01-23). "Children die in Belgium nursery knife attack". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  23. ^ De Standaard online
  24. ^ Duizend vragen, maar dader zwijgt, (January 25, 2009)
  25. ^ "Belgian 'linked to fourth murder'". BBC News. 2009-01-26. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  26. ^ "Belgian admits to daycare killings, denies link to separate homicide". BBC News. 2009-01-27. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  27. ^ "Crèche suspect accused of another death". RTÉ. 2009-01-26. Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  28. ^ a b "Belgian 'admits creche murders'". BBC News. 2009-01-27. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  29. ^ Waterfield, Bruno (2009-01-26). "Belgian creche stabbings: suspect quoted Heath Ledger The suspect in the Belgian creche stabbings is said to have quoted Heath Ledger from the Batman film when he was arrested.". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-01.  horizontal tab character in |title= at position 56 (help)
  30. ^ Waterfield, Bruno (2009-01-27). "Belgium's 'joker killer' Kim De Gelder admits guilt Kim De Gelder, Belgium's alleged "Joker" baby killer, has admitted murdering two children and one of their carers, his lawyer has said.". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-01.  horizontal tab character in |title= at position 54 (help)
  31. ^ Belgian man found guilty in quadruple killings; 2 of the victims were babies, Fox News (March 22, 2012)
  32. ^ Life in prison for Belgian creche killer Kim De Gelder, BBC News (March 23, 2012)
  33. ^ "Quando mi vieni a prendere? (Dendermonde 23/01/09)". Ligachannel (in Italian). April 26, 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2010.