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Julie Van Espen was raped and murdered by sex offender Steve Bakelmans (41) in May 2019. The brutal murder caused a storm of outrage, because Bakelmans had already been convicted of rape twice before. The first time in 2004, the second time in 2017. He received an effective prison sentence of four years for the latter facts, but his immediate arrest was not ordered at the time. This later led to Bakelmans being able to strike at Julie Van Espen, because he had appealed. But his case took far too long to come to fruition.
The Supreme Court of Justice already established in 2019 that many irregularities have occurred in the Bakelmans file. According to a report from the Supreme Court, the file was simply not complete enough to properly assess his risk of recidivism. In addition, the Antwerp Court of Appeal also postponed the file for far too long. One of the reasons put forward was the staff shortage among the magistrates, which literally meant that the file ended up ‘in the closet’.
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The fact that serious mistakes were made at the time means that Julie Van Espen’s parents, sister and brother are still taking legal action to raise the issue. Together with their lawyer Stijn Verbist, they summoned the Belgian State this week for a ‘systematic failure of justice. “We are convinced that, if the Justice Department had acted correctly, Julie Van Espen would still have been alive,” the statement said.
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The relatives and their counselors will hold a press conference on Friday morning to further explain their complaint. One of the things that made them possible recently triggered to start a new procedure after four years, could have been the attack by terrorist Abdesalem Lassoued. He shot two Swedish men dead in the capital, and it later turned out that the file surrounding the dangerous terrorist had ended up in a Brussels cupboard within the public prosecutor’s office, without any follow-up.
The fact that Julie Van Espen’s parents now want to address the press directly and publicly is the first time in four years. In recent years they have always been very reserved and always opted for shelter. They also remained serene and preferred to stay out of the spotlight during Steve Bakelmans’ assize trial. Bakelmans was sentenced to life in prison at the end of December 2021 after a trial behind closed doors, with an additional sentence of fifteen years to the sentencing court and a security period of twenty years.
The family of Julie Van Espen also wants to launch a new project on Friday, under the name Mission Julie/Mission Justice, to fight for a ‘stronger justice in Belgium’.
READ ALSO. Parents Julie Van Espen summon the Justice Department, four years after murder: “She would still have been alive if everyone had taken responsibility”