Updated: Mar 8
Today’s case was a bit of a surprise for me. It involves a series of robberies and murders in the 1980’s with multiple perpetrators, none of whom have ever been identified. I’ve never heard of a case like this, though I’m sure they’re out there. Let’s look at the Brabant Killers, a group that’s gone unidentified, and their crimes unprosecuted, for 38 years.
Before we get into the meat of this case, a note. This case takes place mostly in Belgium, and a lot of sources are in Dutch or French — apparently some of the major languages spoken there. I was only able to read them via somewhat crude online translation tools. I did my best to get the details but any fluent speakers can feel free to correct me in the comments.
In my research, I also came across the words ‘delhaize’ and ‘colruyt’ a lot, words that wouldn’t translate. The “Delhaize Group” and the “Colruyt Group” are two former Belgian companies that mostly own supermarkets, and most of these crimes took place in supermarkets. So I assume that’s what those words are referring to.
So first, a bit about Brabant. Brabant was a province in northern Belgium that consisted of multiple cities and municipalities. It was split into two separate provinces in 1995, over a decade after the Brabant Killers’ crime spree began. But most of their robberies and murders took place in various cities around this province or close by. So let’s get into their many crimes.
note: I got most of the information on the details of these crimes from two different websites, which you can check them out here and here (both have been translated into English). Any other sources will, as usual, be cited in text.
March 13: The robbery of a gun shop in Dinant. There were two perpetrators, both men. One was described as being between 20 and 30 years old, tall, thin and blonde. The second perpetrator looked about 50 and had graying hair. They managed to get away with a Rifle Faul caliber 10.
May 10: In the city of Elsene, a suburb of Brussels. a man named N.L. living is held up at gunpoint by two men, who force him to hand over the keys to his car, an Austin Allegro. The car wasn’t in very good condition and the gas tank was almost empty. It was found abandoned the next day in Lembeek, but another car in that city, a Volkswagen Santana, had also been stolen. That car was later found abandoned in the city of Uccle.
August 14: A grocery store robbery in Maubeuge, France, close to the Belgian border. Two perpetrators carried out this robbery, one being described as large and strong. He was also wearing what’s known as a balaclava, a piece of cloth headgear designed to hide a person’s nose and eyes. One police officer was injured in the robbery.
September 30: A gun shop robbery in Wavre. Three perpetrators managed to get away with over a dozen guns. These physical descriptions have two of them with auburn hair and one with black hair — clearly very different from the previous ones. A police officer is killed, and at least two more are injured.
December 22: A murder at either a restaurant or an inn in Beersel. The body of José
José Vanden Eynde
Vanden Eynde, who lived and worked there, was found by his son — also an employee. Vanden Eynde had been tied to his bed and shot in the head eight times.
A few months earlier, a similar murder had been carried out by members of the Westland New Post, a former far right extremist group in Belgium. More on them later.
January 12: The body of Angelou Constantin is found in the city of Bergen, inside a suitcase in a taxi he owns. He was shot four times in the head, and the taxi was thought to have been abandoned and his body inside for at least a couple of days.
January 28: Another car theft, this time a Peugeot 504. The owner of the car was a member of the French Ministry of Culture, so I assume the car was stolen from France, but I couldn’t find more information.
February 11: The robbery of a grocery store in Rixensart. Three perpetrators were wearing masks and stole nearly 700,000 francs,. This is the equivalent of just over $100,000 today, almost $40,000 at the time. One perpetrator was described as North African with an afro hairstyle, and at least one of the others was wearing a balaclava. Their getaway car was a Peugeot 504.
Once again, the descriptions of the now four suspects here are wildly different than the previous ones, and at least some of them wore carnival masks here so it was probably hard to see much. This is a theme that’s consistent throughout the rest of their crime spree. Even though these robberies and murders have a lot of common threads, they were clearly being committed by multiple different people. I won’t be going into too much more detail about their individual descriptions here because I think you get the idea.
February 14: Another car theft, this one a Volkswagen Golf in Plancenoit. Owner Geneviève Van Lidth was forced to hand over her car to a male perpetrator wearing a balaclava and who had short, curly black hair. The stolen Peugeot 504 was found burned and abandoned the next day.
February 25: A grocery store robbery in Uccle. The two perpetrators used a Volkswagen, presumably the same one that had been stolen a few days earlier. They got away with about 600,000 francs and one person was injured.
March 3: Another grocery store robbery in Halle. Three perpetrators pulled up in a Volkswagen, presumably the same one that had been stolen a few days earlier. This time, they stole over 1 million francs. The store manager was killed and at least one other person was injured.
The day after this robbery, a $5 million bounty was offered in exchange for information that could lead police to finding the perpetrators, but nothing ever came of it.
June 8: A car theft in Eigenbrakel. The Saab 900 turbo was stolen from a showroom in the early hours of the morning and the only witness, a guard dog, was shot and killed.
The Temse suspects
September 10: Two perpetrators robbed a factory in Temse, taking mostly body armor. The factory owner was killed, and his wife was seriously injured.
The husband who died used to be a boxer, and police initially thought the killer might be someone from the “boxing world.” I don’t believe that theory has ever been substantiated.
September 17: A grocery store robbery in Nijvel. It’s not clear how many perpetrators there were, but they mostly stole coffee and peanut oil. They killed at least two police officers — one was left for dead, who I presume eventually died. They also killed a couple who had stopped at the gas station next door and drove away in their car.
Later on that day, a roadblock was set up to catch the perpetrators. They were stopped by police but, with the help of another car, surrounded them and began shooting. Fortunately, nobody was injured.
It was never explicitly stated anywhere, but I’m also assuming this attack, which is one of their more well-known ones, got them their other nickname “Gang of Nijvel.”
October 2: An attack at a restaurant called “Au Trois Canards” in Ohain. The attack happened late at night, and there weren’t many people in the restaurant. The two perpetrators stole a Volkswagen Golf GTI. Jacques van Camp, who ran the restaurant along with his wife, was shot and later died from his injuries. The car that was stolen belonged to his daughter.
October 7: A grocery store robbery in Beersel. The three perpetrators wore carnival masks and drove a Volkswagen Golf, but this one was black and the one stolen five days earlier was red.
This time, they take a man hostage in the parking lot before going inside. They take over a million francs from the store. One person is killed, three more injured. The hostage was eventually released unharmed.
The jewelry store in Anderlues that was the site of a robbery and double murder.
December 1: A jewelry store robbery in Anderlues. The store was owned by a married couple who were at home when the robbery happened, but one of their daughters was the one who heard the first shots. So I assume the family’s house was either part of or close to the store. Both husband and wife were killed, and the three perpetrators got away with about 140,000 francs worth of jewels. There were no customers in the store at the time of the robbery.
After their 1983 spree, things were quiet for awhile. No crimes that could be connected to the Brabant Killers happened for over a year, and people started to think they were done. They weren’t. In fact, some of their deadliest robberies happened in late 1985.
September 22: The theft of a Volkswagen Golf from a warehouse near Korgenbery. The robbery took place in less than five minutes in the early hours of the morning.
September 27: Two separate grocery store robberies, one in Eigenbrakel and another in Overijse.
In Eigenbrakel, the three perpetrators once again took a hostage, this time a 12-year-old boy. Three people were killed, three more injured and 700,000 francs were stolen. Fortunately, the hostage was once again released unharmed after the robbery.
In Overijse, the three perpetrators wore carnival masks and got away with over two million francs. Four people died inside the store, including a cashier who had trouble getting her register open. This time, the hostage was also killed after the robbery, bringing the total to five. I have no idea why they decided to kill the hostage this time.
The inside of the grocery store in Aalst.
November 9: A grocery store robbery in Aalst. It was a Saturday night and a holiday weekend — the following Monday, November 11, was Armistice Day in Belgium. I tell you this to say that there were probably a lot of people in the store.
The three perpetrators wore face paint and were in and out in less than three minutes. They stole over 700,000 francs and killed eight people and injured at least two — probably more. After this robbery, a police officer on the scene believes he killed one of the perpetrators, though the body was never recovered and it’s not 100 % clear what happened to him.
This is, by far, the Killers’ most famous crime. It’s the only one I kept seeing mentioned over and over again, probably due to the high number of casualties, and because it would be their last.
On November 5, 1986, a bag of objects was found in a canal in Ronquières. Among them was the first gun stolen from the shop in Dinant back in 1982. More on this bag later.
Overall, the Brabant Killers are responsible for the deaths of 28 people in over a dozen armed robberies. These robberies usually happened in suburbs and close to major
highways, presumably so the killers could make a quick and easy getaway. We’re not even sure how many killers there are, though it’s been speculated that there were between four and ten. Three of them have been given nicknames: The Giant, The Killer and The Old Man, the latter of whom was the getaway driver. During the raids, the killers always spoke French and were known to taunt their victims.
People who follow this case are often critical of the police and investigation. The attacks happened in broad daylight with numerous witnesses, but the crimes were never solved. And the suspicious police behavior began pretty early on.
In the early days of the investigation, police had five fingerprints linked to the crimes. One was from the car used in the Nijvel robbery, one on a piece of tape and two on a garbage bag one of the perpetrators carried in the Beersel robbery on October 7. The prints were sent to the Judicial Police in Brussels, who concluded the prints were incomplete and couldn’t be examined.
Jean-Marie Schickler, the investigating judge in the case, wasn’t happy about this. Even if the fingerprints weren’t complete, they could still be used in the investigation. He tried to protest, but was largely ignored. Nobody knows what happened to the prints. In addition to the incomplete prints, the Santana used in the Wavre robbery was taken to be impounded pretty quickly after the incident. There were also accusations of evidence going missing.
One of the early suspects in the case was a man named Michel Cocu. An investigation was done on Cocu’s guns and concluded they hadn’t been used in the raids. Prosecutor Jean Deprêtre knew this, yet still went ahead with trying to get Cocu and his gang indicted.
The Borinage gang on trial
In 1987, the investigation was transferred from Deprêtre to a judge Jean-Claude Lacroix. But Cocu and his gang, the “Borinage gang,” were still indicted and went on trial the following year. Three days into the trial, a gun was found hidden in a box of frozen bolognaise sauce at the home of one of the suspects. A request to suspend the trial was made, but denied because there was no evidence the gun had been used in the raids. The trial continued, and Cocu and his gang were ultimately acquitted.
In 1997, the Belgian House of Representatives conducted an inquiry to investigate the allegations of police misconduct. I don’t believe they came up with anything substantial. The case was eventually taken over by Belgium’s federal judicial authorities, who concluded in 2018 that there was manipulation in original investigation.
So let’s talk about potential motive. There has been a lot of speculation that the killers were primarily motivated by robbery, not murder.
The largest amount of money they ever stole at once was 2 million francs, the equivalent today of almost $350,000. Even in 1983, this would have been worth over $100,000 — a decent amount of money. So I’m not sure we can completely discount robbery as a primary motive though, on the flip side, the way in which they killed people might suggest otherwise. As historian Julien Sapori put it: "Frankly, the petty criminal motive seems very unlikely to me. When you compare the spoils to the number of people who died or were wounded, it's grotesque. The minute they got out of the car, they started shooting at everybody, including a child. No thief would act in this way. A thief might shoot someone who was trying to stand up to him. The goal here was to massacre."
The Brabant Killers often wore balaclavas to hide their identities. (photo: Gaelen Marsden. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License)
There are two prominent theories in this case. The first is that the killers were police officers, or at least that the police knew their identities and were protecting them. This theory largely stemmed from the killers seeming to know their way around a gun and because they were good at not getting caught. I’m not sure what the gun culture is like in Belgium, or how common it would have been at the time for ordinary citizens to know how to use guns. So I can’t say much more on this one.
But the major theory seems to be that the killers were extremists or terrorists. Some sources have suggested they were on the far left, politically, though most seem to think they were far right. A 1999 article discusses the theory that the murders were “part of a right wing plot to destabilize the country, undermine Communism and strengthen the police state.”
Now let’s get into some actual suspects. In 2014, a 68-year-old only identified as “Jean-Marie T” was arrested in connection with the murders. He was identified by witnesses when photos were released by police in 1997, but never questioned. He denied any involvement, and I couldn’t find much more about him, so I assume he was eventually released.
In the fall of 1983, Robert ‘Baloo’ Becker was arrested for possibly committing at least some of these crimes, but I couldn’t find out much more about him either. He supposedly bore resemblance to the perpetrator of the factory burglary in Temse. The main witness who said he recognized him has since died.
In 2014, Michel Libert was arrested and questioned in connection with the murders. Libert is a former member of the Westland New Post, the extremist group we talked about earlier, who have also been accused of carrying out the robberies and murders. Police were tipped off to Libert when former WNP leader Eric Lammers made statements about the WNP and the Brabant Killers to a Belgian TV station. Libert’s home was also searched, but he was released the day after his arrest.
Another person in Belgium at the time who’s at least been suspected is Jean-François Buslik. In 1982, 25-year-old Frances Zwarts went missing. His body has never been found, but he’s presumed dead. After this, Buslik suspiciously left Belgium to live in Florida. In 1995, he was tried for Zwarts’s murder in absentia — a concept I discussed briefly in my Holly Maddux video. He was found guilty and sentenced to death but, of course, he was still in Florida at this point. No arrest warrant was ever issued and he was never extradited.
The gun stolen from a shop in Dinant in 1982 was recovered in a canal four years later.
In 1999, Buslik was tracked down by a journalist. He’d never made much of an effort to hide, always using his real name for official documents (though he went by an alias in public). He was finally sent back to Belgium in 2000, and acquitted at a second trial in 2001. Madani Bouhouce, one of Buslik’s accomplices was sentenced to 20 years of hard labor in 1995, though I’m not sure if it was in relation to Frances Zwarts’s case. Bouhouce was also convicted of the murder of a Lebanese merchant in Antwerp and the attempted murder of his own brother.
Just before his death in 2015, former police officer Christiaan Bonkoffsky made a deathbed confession to his brother. Bonkoffsky reportedly claimed he was the man nicknamed “The Giant” in the Brabant killings.
Bonkoffsky’s brother, who I don’t believe has been publically identified, struggled with this at first but ended up going to police in 2017. Bonkoffsky had been a member of a special unit of the police called Group Diane, but was fired in 1981. According to one of his former girlfriends, she once compared him to a police sketch of one of the Brabant Killers and he got really angry.
After the police found out about this alleged confession, they began investigating. They questioned Bonoffsky’s brother, and his lawyer indicated that Bonoffksy confessed to several other people before his death as well. However, Bonoffsky’s DNA and fingerprints were compared to DNA from the killers, but there was no match. A genetic analysis also produced no results. Bonoffsky’s confession, and any connection he might have had to the Brabant Killers, has never been proven.
Because the last of the Brabant crimes took place in 1985, the statute of limitations was set to expire at the end of 2015. In October of that year, a Belgian “plenary chamber” (or debate chamber) voted to extend it for another 10 years. I’m writing this in 2020, so that new limit is halfway up. If there are no arrests by 2025, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another vote to extend it.
In 2019, a now-retired police officer was arrested on suspicion of hiding evidence in the case. The officer was a member of the Delta police group, which investigated the murders and who found the bag of evidence in the canal in 1986. Upon a second search, more evidence, including a bulletproof vest and more weapons, were also found in the canal. A 2013 forensic analysis on the evidence concluded this evidence had been put in the canal about a week before it was found.
In 2017, the investigating team was expanded from 11 people to 30. And today, they’re still hard at work. They’ve looked into 3,000 people named in the case files, and requests for DNA samples have already been sent to hundreds of Belgians. I assume they’ll be matched to the DNA from the killers, which consists of a sample from a cigarette and another from a bulletproof vest.
In June 2019, Belgium’s Office of the Public Prosecutor got a tip that the killer nicknamed “The Giant” was in jail in another country and could be out within the year. If this is true then he could be out already. However, I couldn’t find anything else about it and a spokesperson for the department said the tip did “not seem to be the most promising one in this investigation.”
In June 2020, a photo was released to the public by police in connection with the murders and in the hopes that someone would be able to identify the man in it. The photo was reportedly taken in 1982 and sent anonymously to police in 1986. (Another source said Michel Libert actually sent them the photo.)
Police need the public's help in identifying this man.
The man is believed to be between 1.85 and 1.9 meters tall (6 feet to 6 ‘ 2 “) and has a “wine stain” birthmark on the nape of his neck. He’s not considered a suspect at this time, but has been “investigated.”
So that’s all I have for you today on the Brabant Killers. There’s a lot more I didn’t get into for time purposes, but I will leave links below to the English translations of two websites that I got a lot of my information from. They both have really detailed timelines of the crimes as well as photos and other official documents. This is a case that could really send you down a rabbit hole so if you found what you’ve heard here interesting, I highly recommend looking further into the case. Obviously I’d suggest that for any of these cases, but especially ones like this because there’s just so much more to them than I can fit in a video.
If you have any information that might lead to the arrest of the Brabant Killers, you can contact police at 0800 30 300. If you’re outside Belgium, you can call 0032 2 554 44 88 or reach them via e-mail at email@example.com of firstname.lastname@example.org