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Senseless violence or zinloos geweld (Dutch) is a term frequently used by among others the media, politicians and NGOs to define the nature of several shocking events in Belgium and the Netherlands in recent years. The term expresses the perceived senselessness of the occurred acts of violence. As such, its use is politically charged and may not reflect any unique elements of any particular crime given that label.
Origin of the term
The term "senseless violence", in the meaning used in this article, was first used in 1997 by Cees Bangma, district chief of the Dutch police unit Midden-Friesland. Before 1997 the term was merely used for excessive war violence and had a less moral connotation. Bangma used it in a letter written to the Leeuwarder Courant, a Frisian newspaper in which he made an appeal to the Dutch population to have a minute of silence for Meindert Tjoelker, who was killed on 13 September 1997. This minute was necessary "to make it clear to everyone that the Frisian society does not accept senseless violence". A wave of reactions followed, which also included a media hype. As a consequence, much more attention was spent to every similar case of violence, which led to the perception that violence was on the increase.
The term is often criticized because it seems to say that the violence which is not categorized as senseless is legitimate. Also, it is difficult, if not impossible, to define what constitutes "senseless violence". Others point out that the term is or can be misused by right wing politicians who strive for more repressive measures against crimes.
While there have been multiple isolated cases of fatal senseless violence in the last decade, the number of deadly incidents has surged since April 2006. The following is a non-exhaustive list of deadly incidents since 1998:
- November 28, 1998: Patrick Mombaerts (died in Brussels after being beaten by very young robbers, who were sentenced to community service only).
- March 25, 1999: Christel De Jonghe (killed by a never uncovered immigrant during a robbery in Antwerp).
- April 2002: unidentified woman (died of a heart attack after being chased and attacked by youths in Brussels).
- May 7, 2002: Ahmed Isnasni and Habiba El Hajji (shot to death in Brussels by their neighbour Hendrik Vyt, who then killed himself).
- October 2002: unidentified elderly woman (died from wounds suffered in a street robbery in Brussels).
- November 26, 2002: Mohammed Achrak (shot to death in Antwerp by his neighbour; murder led to citywide riots).
- December 19, 2003: Glenn Wijnants (stabbed to death in Antwerp by a man for no apparent reason).
- April 12, 2006: Joe Van Holsbeeck (stabbed to death by two young during a daytime robbery in Brussels).
- May 11, 2006: Oulemata Niangadou and Luna Drowart (shot and killed by Hans Van Themsche during a homicidal rampage in Antwerp).
- June 24, 2006: Guido Demoor (train-driver who died after a hit against his head on an Antwerp bus by six youths he had asked to calm down).
- July 2, 2006: Philibert Mees (stabbed to death in his Mechelen house by his neighbour).
- October 21, 2006: Eddy Sabbe (beaten to death during a robbery by immigrants).
- November 3, 2006: Mohamed Benzil (killed after being pushed in front of an Antwerp tram by immigrants, possibly in a case of road rage).
- February 3, 2007: Bart Bonroy (18-year-old stabbed to death in Ostend by Kenny B. after he refused to give a cigarette).
- February 20, 2007: Yannick Amba-Bongelo (17-year-old Congolese who was stabbed to death by a gang of 30 youths during Mardi Gras in Binche).
- September 1, 2007: yet unnamed elderly man (stabbed to death in broad daylight in a busy street in Brussels by a 28-year-old man).
- December 4, 2007: Kitty Van Nieuwenhuysen (23-year-old police officer shot to death in her patrol car when responding to a burglary).
- April, 2012: An MIVB employee died after being struck by a man, leading to a multiple-day-long strike by the Brussels transport services.
- August 21, 1983: Kerwin Duinmeijer (stabbed to death in a racism related case)
- October 22, 2002: René Steegmans (beaten to death after asking respect for an elderly lady)
- December 2, 2012: Richard Nieuwenhuizen (fatally injured after serving as a volunteer linesman at a youth football match in Almere)