Couple that murdered British businessman wants a retrial

A couple that was convicted of the murder of a British businessman in 1996 have lodged an appeal against the sentence they were given in their absence by a court in 2011. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the businessman in the West Flemish seaside town of De Haan. 

In 1996 a British businessman was shot and murdered in the seaside town of De Haan. Hilde Van Acker and her partner, the notorious con man Jean-Claude Lacote, soon became suspects. Their motive was that the businessman had realised that he had been conned by Jean-Claude Lacote.  

At the end of 1996 the couple were released from custody. They absconded and started a new life in South Africa. A Belgian court convicted the couple of the businessman’s murder in their absence.

They were finally tracked down in Ivory Coast last November thanks to Europol’s most wanted list. The couple voluntarily returned to Belgium from Ivory Coast just over two weeks ago. Ms Van Acker has breast cancer and was unable to get the treatment she needs in the West African country. Both Ms Van Acker and Mr Lacote are now locked in prison here in Belgium.

Hilde Van Acker’s solicitor Kris Vincke says that his client denies having murdered the businessman. "Hilde was sentenced to life on suspicion of the murder of a British businessman, but she says that she didn’t do it. So it is important that she can tell her side of the story in front of a jury. The jury can then decide whether or not she is guilty and what sentence she will be given. She currently has been given the maximum sentence and of course wants this to be changed”.  

It their request is approved both Hilde Van Acker and Jean-Claude Lacote will be given a re-trial.