Steve B. has been found guilty of the rape and murder of Belgian student Julie van Espen. Thats what a jury in the Supreme Court in Antwerp decided tonight. On Wednesday, it is decided what punishment the 41-year-old B. gets, he risks life, according to Belgian media.
23-year-old Van Espen disappeared 2.5 years ago after she got on a bicycle in the place Schilde to go to see friends in Antwerp. A crime was immediately taken into account. B. – who was a familiar to justice and police – was seen on camera footage and arrested. A few days later, Van Espens body was found in a search at the Albert Canal near Antwerp.
B. already confessed to the murder of Van Espen in 2019.
A jury of twelve people decided today after a four-hour deliberation that B. was guilty of the rape and murder of the woman. “B. acted purposefully, with the aim of killing. We see that by the intensity of the injuries,” said at the court, says Belgian media. “He strangled her several times, detained the violence until she stopped giving a sign of life, and only left the crime scene when he was sure she was dead.”
In Belgium, the case led to a lot of criticism of justice two years ago. B. had been convicted twice for rape, but pending appeal in the last case, he had been at large for two years. People were wondering how that was possible. The Minister of Justice also questioned.
According to the Court of Appeal in Antwerp, cuts were the cause of the long waiting times; there would be too few judges.
In Antwerp, due to the murder of Van Espen, a silent trip against sexual violence was held. At that time, about 15,000 people walked with it. Celine also walked along, in this video she told why:
B. was sentenced to four years in prison in 2017. He was then convicted of rape. However, he was never in jail for this, because he appealed. He was allowed to wait for the appeal at large. According to the court, there was no reason that “he would escape his punishment”, or that he would flee abroad.
A statement says in a statement, the seriousness of the facts or the gravity of the punishment, the seriousness of the punishment is not a reason for an immediate arrest in Belgium. This allowed B. to walk around freely.