Murder of Karel Van Noppen

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Modern-day view of Wechelderzande where the murder occurred

The murder of Karel Van Noppen was a high-profile assassination of a government livestock inspector in Belgium in 1995. Van Noppen had been investigating illegal practices by farmers and businessmen in Belgium and was shot dead by assailants outside his house in the village of Wechelderzande in the Province of Antwerp. A number of people connected with the illegal supply of growth hormones to livestock were sentenced in connection with the murder.

"Hormone Mafia"[edit]

The use of growth hormones on livestock has the potential to increase the profit per animal between ten and 100 percent. However, the use of such hormones has been banned by the European Union since 1989 and so organised crime, motivated by the immense profits, moved into the business. This was a particular concern in Belgium, where several government inspectors had been threatened or had attempts made on their lives.[1]


In February 1995, 43-year-old Karel Van Noppen, who had been investigating the phenomenon, was shot dead outside his front door. The killing provoked outrage throughout Belgium, with a torchlight procession led by his widow in Flanders and calls to investigate and better regulate the cattle industry.[2] In 2002, a court sentenced Albert Barrez, Carl de Schutter and Germain Daenen to 25 years each for their roles in the murder, while another man, Alex Vercauteren received a life sentence without parole.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

The 2011 Belgian crime drama Bullhead, directed by Michaël R. Roskam, is loosely based on the incident and the hormone mafia.[4]


  1. ^ "The Independent - Why the mafia is into your beef". The Independent. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  2. ^ "The Independent - Belgians march in memory of 'hormone mafia' victim". The Independent. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  3. ^ "BBC News - Belgian hormone killers jailed". Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  4. ^ "BBC News - Bullhead: Oscar contender rooted in real Belgian murder". BBC News. Retrieved 8 October 2014.