I draw most of my information from online sources. Occasionally I will have a book that may add a detail or two in older unsolved murders. I like to think the strength of this website is pulling together bits of articles and mentions into a more centralised reference point for cold cases. Sometimes I go to town and spend hours on one crime, other times I will see something that I believe may interest people, but the case is too time consuming for me to write about in its entirety. This is one of the latter.
Belgium has a mystery from the 1980s that includes the unsolved murder of 28 people over the course of just under four years. On one level you have three armed robbers who operated with such disregard for human life that they are almost unequalled in their cruelty. On another level you have a paramilitary trio that used the robberies of supermarkets and gun stores to cover political assassinations.
Apparently you had ‘A Giant’, A Killer’ and ‘An Old Man’. In December 1981 they are believed to have stolen a car and weapons from a police station. In 1982, between March and December they carried out raids on commercial premises and car jacked citizens. In September they committed their first murder when a cop was shot dead at the scene of an armed raid on a weapons dealer in Wavre in central Belgium. In December they killed again. The caretaker of a restaurant in Beersel was tortured and killed as the gang stole coffee and wine. The two places are only 22 miles (35km) from each other.
In 1983 their raids increased in number and violence. Robberies were committed in places like Halle, Temse, Ohain and Anderlues. These seem to be ( at a quick glance) small provincial towns no more than an hour’s drive from each other. I know from living close to many small towns the police response is slower due to the largely rural area they patrol. Another issue is that when cops do arrive they are often no more than two in number.
These killers had a particular habit that seemed to take advantage of the policing situation. They would not only kill men, women and children. They seemed to delay their escape on occasions so they could target the police.
1985 not only proved to be the year the trio stopped killing but it was also the year their callous violence went to new levels. On 27th September they attacked ( it is a better word than robbed) two supermarkets. At the first in Braine-l’Alleud they shot three people dead and at the second, in Overijse, another five people died.
The 9th November was the last massacre. Another retail food store was the target this time in Aalst. The first victims were all members of a family that were shot in the car park as the gang arrived. A boy managed to escape inside. The killers followed and while the raid was carried out they shot him as well. He survived after taking a serious hit to one hip. In total eight people died that day. What is also significant is that after the September attack armed guards had begun to patrol and the cops were giving such targets extra attention. It might have slowed the number of crimes yet the trio were far from intimidated. The last crime showed just how brazen they were. Despite multiple police units responding they made a grand show of waiting before escaping the parking lot.
Right wing paramilitary and political groups seem to have been the favourites. Disappointingly several names that came up were ex police themselves. Back in those days all of Europe, including the UK, were plagued by politically motivated crimes.
There is a theory that I agree with. Most of the people who commit crime in the name of ideology are killers and thieves first and wave the banner of freedom and justice as a convenience.
Bank robberies and kidnappings are for the pleasure of psychopaths. Profit and power are the main motives rather than liberating the ‘oppressed’. However close to right or wrong I am on this I think it is hard to come to any other conclusion about this trio than they were just bullies. They killed when there was no need to and their targets were often weaker than they were and many were unarmed.
The things they stole do lend credibility to them being involved in some sort of political organisation. They took coffee, wine, cooking oil and weapons as well as cash and jewellery. It paints a picture of them hidden away somewhere preparing for war. I notice that in 1985 the attacks were all on branches of the Delhaize shopping chain. So was there extortion or some radical agenda behind the scenes?
The Incredible Thing Is They Were Never Caught
The violence and the notoriety must have swept the nation. The UK is a much bigger country yet our demographic and culture is similar. We have never had a single group do this sort of thing over such a period. In 1985 they just stopped and disappeared. No-one has informed on them. No criminal organisation has given them up either. Crime organisations will, on occasion, throw the like of these three under the bus. Sometimes they reason that violence like that committed brings undue police scrutiny. I have also known criminals be disgusted by crimes aimed at women and children so they will kill the offenders themselves or at least get them arrested. If they had been affiliated to a group and gone rogue there was a continued solid silence.
That is really strange.
Where The Brabant Killers Even Belgian?
Belgium is a tiny country but it is of course attached to a wider European area. Even back then when borders were a real thing the crossing points between countries were many and difficult to police. It is possible that the killers were not even Belgian. As far as I understand it they spoke French. The language is very common and is an official one in Belgium but equally it could have been the native tongue of these killers because they were French citizens. Less than an hour from many of the crime scenes and you would be over the border and in France.
In a recent appeal for information the Belgian government admitted that the motive for the attacks could have been to destabilise the country. Massacres that were seen as unstoppable by the law could well have done that. If that was the case it could have been a threat born from anywhere in order to benefit individuals or even nations.
Allegations Of Police Corruption
As these murderers displayed military style tactics and the police appeared to hold back in catching them a theory circulated that the law was complicit in the crimes. In the last raid, for example, the exits were blocked to the car park. All except one. As the trio drove away many of the police vehicles were said to have malfunctioned and only one patrol chased the killers for a few kilometres.
I just don’t know how true that is. I don’t doubt the offenders may have been ex police, but I do find it hard to buy into the idea that a whole group of cops would cover for child murderers. If I am naïve then I will gladly stay naïve on that one.
If You Want A Mystery You Have Got One
I have scratched the surface of this incredible unsolved series of crimes. Doubtless you could spend your life on them. The men went away basically. If they were killed then it was done under the same weird silence that was around them as they rampaged for four years.
I wonder if the police and intelligence services figured out who they were and erased them? It is just so bizarre that 28 people can be gunned down and all these years later nothing more is known. I mean, why did they stop?
Anyway I will leave this one with you.
Take Care Tim