A Belgian couple has been sentenced to 30 and 24 years in prison for the murder of the British businessman Marcus Mitchell in 1996 in the Belgian coastal town of De Haan.
The conviction is lower than the prosecutions demand. He was life imprisonment for 54-year-old Jean-Claude Lacote and 30 years in prison for the 57-year-old Hilde Van Acker. “Their chilling coldness and the terror Marcus Mitchell must have endured demands the most severe punishment. Even though the murder dates from 25 years ago,” said the prosecutor.
The jury unanimously ruled yesterday that the ex-partners Jean-Claude Locate and Hilde of Acker are the murderers of Marcus Mitchell. The British businessman was shot in 1996 in the dunes near De Haan, presumably because he found out that the couple had ripped him off for £300,000.
The jurys judgment was substantiated by phone records, witnesses, investigation of the weapon, and the fact that Mitchell was ripped off by the couple. Today, the punishment in the murder case became known.
Shortly after the murder, the two were arrested, but when they were released a few months later, they fled abroad. In the more than 20 years that justice and police had been looking for them, they were seen in the United States, Canada, Brazil and South Africa.
There they would have scammed countless people for millions of euros and lived a luxury life. They also managed to escape from a heavily guarded prison in South Africa. In 2019 Lacote and Van Acker were arrested in Ivory Coast.
Van Acker also entered Europols list of most wanted female criminals.
The defendants were also allowed to speak in the court in Bruges yesterday. “For 25 years, I have been accused of a murder that has nothing to do with me, and which I have been saying from the beginning that I had nothing to do with it. It has been terrible, for me, my family and now also my daughter,” says an emotional Van Acker.
Lacote and Van Acker have always insisted on being innocent. For Van Acker, who suffers from cancer, this feels like “the end of her life”, says her lawyer to VRT.