Shock and outrage in Belgium after nursery killings
DENDERMONDE - "An act of great brutality has happened here against our weakest citizens," Piet Buyse, the mayor of Dendermonde, stated. "The parents are in great shock and so is our city."
Belgian media report that the 20-year-old suspect arrested after the stabbings spoke after a ten-hour silence during which he occasionally broke out in laughter. The local prosecutor says he caused the bloodshed without apparent motive.
Police say the assailant was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he burst into the nursery. He also severely injured ten infants and toddlers and two staff. All of them are now in a stable condition.
"I’m shocked as a minister and a mother," Flemish Welfare Minister Veerle Heeren told Belgian public television at the scene in the town of Sint-Gillis-Bij-Dendermonde.
"We learned from the prosecutor’s office that the killer had no connection with the nursery, but we have to wait for the results of the investigation."
The young assailant, who had his face painted black and white, burst into the "Fabeltjesland" or "Little Fable Land" nursery building after ringing the bell. In his hand, he wielded an eight-inch blade, with which he killed two infants, six and nine months old, and a female staff member. Another carer tried in vain to disarm the man, according to one of the managers of the nursery, who arrived at the scene just after the murders.
"I received a telephone call from one of the carers. In the background I could hear loud screaming. I could hardly understand what she was saying, but she demanded I came immediately. ‘Something very serious has happened’, she said. "One little child was dead and several others were wounded’. When I arrived, I saw blood everywhere, staff and the babies were crying and crumbled up, wounded, against the walls. It was the most horrifying sight you can imagine."
The man escaped on a bicycle but was soon apprehended in a nearby village after a massive manhunt. He was wearing a bulletproof vest and had a note on him with the address of a second nursery on it. In his backpack, he was carrying a second knife and an axe. In the meantime, police had to show distraught parents photographs of children taken to the hospital to identify them.
The apparently random stabbings sparked panic and outrage throughout the town and left Belgium in shock.
The nursery where will remain closed for at least a week. The town hall has opened a book of condolence and has organised a silent march on Sunday. The mayor has encouraged everyone in the town to attend a sober ceremony at the nursery on Monday. The assailant also severely injured ten toddlers and two staff. The suspect has been arrested and charged but police say he is refusing to cooperate in the investigation.