What do we already know about the kidnapping of a 13 year-old boy in Genk?

As we reported earlier a 13-year-old was freed on Monday morning after he had been held hostage for 42 days. But what do we know about the kidnapping and what was the longest hostage-taking in Belgian history?  

At a press conference held on Monday morning at the courthouse in Hasselt (photo above) detectives and officials gave some information regarding the circumstances surrounding the kidnap, hostage-taking and the release of the boy. However, as the investigation is still ongoing some information was not disclosed.

What exactly happened?

On the night of Monday 20 April a 13-year-boy was kidnapped in the Genk area of Limburg Province. The kidnapping was particularly violent. The kidnappers arrived at the boy’s home in a stolen car. They were masked and heavily armed when the entered the house.

The boy was taken and according to information from VRT sources a number of other members of his family were threatened. The kidnappers fled and disappeared without a trace. 

Why was the boy held hostage?

It is still unclear as to why the boy was taken and held. No information has been given about his identity or his background. One avenue of investigation is a connection to drugs. However, it is far from certain whether the kidnapping and hostage taking are in anyway linked to this. When VRT News asked if the boy’s family had been targeted the Judicial Authorities were vague.

“Most hostage takings are aimed at a particular person”.

What is known is that a considerable ransom was demanded. The figure was in the millions. The Judicial Authorities are remaining tight-lipped as to whether any ransom was paid. 

It is still unclear as to why the boy was taken and held. No information has been given about his identity or his background. One avenue of investigation is a connection to drugs. However, it is far from certain whether the kidnapping and hostage taking are in anyway linked to this. When VRT News asked if the boy’s family had been targeted the Judicial Authorities were vague.

“Most hostage takings are aimed at a particular person”.

What is known is that a considerable ransom was demanded. The figure was in the millions. The Judicial Authorities are remaining tight-lipped as to whether any ransom was paid. 

Why did it take so long to find and free the boy?

The police launched a large-scale operation to try and find the boy. Dozens of telephones were tapped but to no avail. So as to not endanger the boy the police operation was carried out with the greatest of caution. 

"There was repeated contact between the kidnappers and the family. Twice there was evidence that the boy was still alive”. 

"During all this time the interests and the live of the child were our central concern”. 

Then on Monday just after midnight the boy was freed. “There were 12 searches carried out. 4 in Antwerp and the rest in the area around Genk - Zutendaal, Houthalen, Maaseik.” The search continued until 6am. 7 suspects were taken away for questioning an Examining Magistrate will decide whether they will remain in custody.  

100 police officers and detectives worked on the operation. They we help by colleagues from The Netherlands, France and the United States. 

Why did it take so long to find and free the boy?

The police launched a large-scale operation to try and find the boy. Dozens of telephones were tapped but to no avail. So as to not endanger the boy the police operation was carried out with the greatest of caution. 

"There was repeated contact between the kidnappers and the family. Twice there was evidence that the boy was still alive”. 

"During all this time the interests and the live of the child were our central concern”. 

Then on Monday just after midnight the boy was freed. “There were 12 searches carried out. 4 in Antwerp and the rest in the area around Genk - Zutendaal, Houthalen, Maaseik.” The search continued until 6am. 7 suspects were taken away for questioning an Examining Magistrate will decide whether they will remain in custody.  

100 police officers and detectives worked on the operation. They we help by colleagues from The Netherlands, France and the United States. 

How is the boy now?

The Judicial Authorities wouldn’t say too much about the boy’s current condition. “As regards his medical condition first impression indicate that everything is ok".

However, what the long-term impact on the child of having been held for 42 days remains to be seen.  

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