It was in 2019 that two masked men overpowered an elderly woman in her residence in Flemish Brabant. The men threatened the woman with a knife and forced her to open her safe and hand over her valuables. The burglars drove off in the woman’s car and 50,000 euros’ worth of valuables. The car was later recovered, but there was no trace of the woman’s attackers.
When police combed out the area around the woman’s home, they encountered an improvised sleeping space in a nearby barn. During the home invasion one of the burglars had let slip that he had slept there. Detectives found a partially eaten carrot and managed to recover DNA. A first comparison didn’t provide a hit.
In March of this year though judicial investigators were able to compare the DNA with information stored in the UK DNA databank and that did yield a hit. A Romanian was identified. He was known to the Belgian authorities under a false name and had already received a 40-month prison sentence in this country.
The defendant did not turn up in court yesterday. Belgian prosecutors are seeking an 8-year custodial sentence. The court will pass sentence on 8 November. The Romanian’s accomplice has not been found.
Link up with UK DNA database
At the end of last year the UK and Belgian DNA databanks were linked up. As a result investigators in both countries are able to compare DNA samples with samples already on record in the UK and Belgium.
The Belgian databank holds 61,000 specimens retrieved from saliva, sperm and blood at crime scenes. Half of these samples remain unidentified. The authorities do not know who they belong to. Samples are being compared with data on record abroad in an attempt to solve cases.
The UK database contains 5 million DNA samples. In the UK DNA samples have to be provided far more readily than in Belgium explaining the far higher number of samples on record there.