Who shot and killed lawyer Claudia Van der Stichelen at close range on October 28? It’s been a mystery for two weeks. After the murder, the unknown perpetrator, a man in his sixties dressed in gray overalls, fled.
On Wednesday it emerged that the East Flemish court in Vlierzele had a suspect in its sights. The 65-year-old man, EDC, appeared to know Van der Stichelen well. The lawyer had been his administrator for two years and that was not to his liking. He has given vent to his frustrations on social media in recent months. That made him possibly suspicious in the eyes of the investigators.
On Wednesday afternoon, he was taken for questioning upon returning from a visit to a café. In the evening and also on Thursday, Ghent investigators subjected him to hours of interrogations. According to our information, EDC denied any involvement in the murder. In parallel, the Missing Persons Unit led by Alain Remue searched for the murder weapon near his home. That yielded nothing.
“Too few clues”
However, on Friday his lawyers Ercan Tok and Sven Mary reported that EDC should not appear before the investigating judge, but that he could go home as a free man. There is nothing to indicate that he is behind the murder of his former administrator, it is said.
The East Flemish court confirms that the second suspect, the brother-in-law of the first suspect, can also return home. He was also arrested by investigators for a while on Thursday.
EDC and LVB were released in the morning. “There are too few indications of guilt,” said the public prosecutor’s office spokesperson. The two are not charged.
“All avenues are considered, all resources deployed”
The investigation is now continuing, said public prosecutor Annelies Verstraete on Friday. “It is of course frustrating that we have not yet been able to catch the perpetrator, but all avenues are being examined and all resources are being deployed.”
“The investigating judge has gone through the entire file. The interrogations were analyzed and the results of the searches were reviewed, but at this time there is insufficient evidence of guilt.”
“Sleep normally again”
Ercan Tok, the lawyer of the suspect who was under Van Der Stichelen’s custody, praises the work of the investigating judge in Oudenaarde. “I can understand why my client was arrested. These are very serious facts and he has indeed expressed his frustration about the victim on Facebook, but committing gruesome facts is of a different nature. There were insufficient other indications to put him under suspicion. I congratulate the investigating judge on the release. She has made a courageous, correct decision in a case where the pressure is very high.”
The truth must come out now, says Tok. “All avenues must be considered. It is now the job of the police services to find the real perpetrator. The entire legal profession hopes that this will happen soon.”
His client is doing well, Tok said. “He is relieved that he is back home, that he can actually sleep normally again, rest normally. Away from the hustle and bustle, away from the hectic. Now he has some time to recover. He is not going to do any interviews now, but will first relax. His family is now with him, because this was a huge shock. The two days he was held were very stressful. Not sleeping, not eating, drinking little… Being accused of murder brings a lot of stress. Especially if you have nothing to do with it and have to endure everything anyway. I always told him to stay strong.”