On Sunday morning the Van Espen family launched an appeal on Facebook to try and find Julie.
She had left her home in Schilde to cycle the around 15 km to Antwerp on her dark-coloured Peugeot women’s bicycle.
Police started a search for Julie Van Espen along the banks of the Albert Canal on Saturday night.
On Sunday afternoon the Judicial Authorities announced that a murder investigation had been opened.
"Certain things have been found along the route taken by the woman that require further investigation”, the Judicial Authorities’ Lieselotte Claessens told journalists.
"I can confirm that there are indications that point towards a violent death”.