Jonas Roosens

Julie’s alleged killer stands trial before Antwerp assizes

The trial of Steve Bakelmans, charged with the murder of Julie Van Espen, started before the Antwerp court of assizes this morning. 

23-year-old Julie disappeared on 4 May 2019, a Saturday evening, after leaving her parents’ home in Schilde on her bike.  She was bound for Antwerp where she was set to meet up with girlfriends. She never arrives.

Police, family, and friends search for Julie along the banks of the Albert Canal where her phone signal was last detected. The police Missing Persons’ Unit is involved.  Soon bloody clothes and a bike basket are recovered from a meadow.  CCTV footage shows a man with a large backpack carrying a bike basket and other items in the locality. With no trace of the missing woman the general public are alerted and images of the man with the backpack are circulated.  He is identified as Steve Bakelmans and later arrested at Leuven Station.

Meanwhile a boat equipped with a sonar detects Julie’s body in the Albert Canal.

Bakelmans confesses to her murder explaining that she forcefully resisted when he raped her.

Bakelmans is no stranger to Belgian justice.  He was convicted of a series of minor offences including theft, threatening behaviour, and traffic offences, but in 2004 he is sentenced to 4 years in gaol for rape.

In 2016 after his release Bakelmans violently rapes his former girlfriend.  He is convicted the following year.  Prosecutors seek his immediate detention, but as there is no danger of flight the judge is unable to do so because Bakelmans decides to appeal his conviction.

Two years later the Antwerp appeal court rules in the matter, but by then, for Julie it is too late.

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