Bakelmans convicted of rape and murder gets life

Following Steve Bakelmans’s conviction for the rape and murder of Julie Van Espen the jury at the Antwerp court of assises decided to impose a life sentence on Bakelmans today. The jury followed the thinking of prosecutors and could see no extenuating circumstances in this case.

After a week’s trial conducted behind closed doors the jury needed four hours to come to a decision on Bakelmans’s guilt. A further three hours were needed to agree a sentence.

Bakelmans will serve at least 20 years before any parole and after his release will be supervised for a further 15 years.

Bakelmans used such violence her family was not able to say any physical farewell. The court also took his form and the fact that he is described as dangerous into account.  The judicial authorities offered him many opportunities that he did not use the court says.

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

Police, family, and friends searched 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.

Julie’s body was recovered from the Albert Canal by a boat equipped with sonar.  After the body is found Bakelmans confesses explaining she resisted when he forced her to have sex.

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