This case fucked me up.
Serial Killers typically have some sort of specific demographic (for the lack of a better way to put it) they target. For example, when you look at John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer, they were pedophiles who targeted children. When you look at London’s infamous Jack the Ripper, he targeted sex workers. Still yet, there are those who don’t seem to have any particular target. The Zodiac killer is one in particular where his targets seemed to be purely random. Rather, they seemed more to be done to torment authorities and instill fear into the general populous’ hearts.
Seldom are there killings that seem to have no rhyme or reason to them. Even at their most seemingly random, there’s always some sort of underlying motive. Even the infamous Ted Bundy had a motivation—and his was pornography. The point is: there’s always something that leads a human being to murdering someone else.
In the case of the Brabant Killers though, there doesn’t seem to be one. Random is random in this case and that randomness comes with 28 murdered and 40+ more injured.
|Composite sketches of the three men.|
Also known as the “Nijvel Gang” in Dutch media, the Brabant killers consisted of three men who, committed several violent robberies the Belgian province of Brabant between the years of 1982 and 1985. A few of these robberies did occur outside of it as you'll see though. The three men in question were referred to as “The Giant”, “The Killer”, and “The Old Man”. These three characters were all believed to have roles in the crime they committed. The Giant was believed be the leader, the Killer was the main shooter, and the Old Man waa the getaway driver.
Now, while I'd normally merely cover a few of the gang's crimes, the escalation that took place in their attacks I think warrant full coverage. So, with the help of Wikipedia's listing of said attacks, let's go over them
1: On March 13, two men stole a 10-gauge fowling shotgun from a store in Dinant, Belgium. Although neither were caught, they were seen fleeing.
2: On May 10, an Austin Allegro was stolen. A Volkswagen Santana was also stolen from a car showroom.
3: An armed robbery of supermarket in Maubeuge, France on August 14, and resulted in two police officers being shot and critically wounded, though they both survived. Food and wine were stolen.
4: Another armed robbery took place on September 30, this time of a weapons dealer in Wavre, Belgium. A total of fifteen firearms—including a few sub-machine guns—were stolen. An officer arrived on scene and was murdered. Two other officers were later shot and critically wounded, but survived.
5: On December 23, in Beersel, Belgium, the armed robbery of a restaurant took place. Coffee and wine was stolen, and the caretaker was tortured before being killed.
6: In Brussels, a cab was robbed on January 9; later being found in Mons, Belgium. The driver was tortured before being killed.
7: On February 11, in Rixensart, Belgium, a supermarket was robbed. Several people were injured, but none were killed. Less than 18,000 dollars was stolen.
8: Eleven days later, on February 22, an Audi 100 that was involved in the previous crime was stolen while it was being repaired.
9: A mere three days later, a supermarket in Uccle, Belgium, was was robbed. 16,000 dollars was stolen and nobody was killed.
10: On March 3, a supermarket in Halle, Belgium was robbed. Once again, less than 18,000 dollars was stolen. One staff member was murdered.
11: A supermarket was robbed on May 7 in Houdeng-Gougnies, Belgium. Less than 22,000 dollars was stolen and nobody was killed.
12: A textile factory was robbed in Temse, Belgium on September 10. Seven bullet-proof jackets were stolen, while a worker was murdered and his wife severely injured.
13: A week later, the gang murdered a couple were killed while filling up their Mercedes. As it so happened, the gang was in the process of loading twenty kilos of tea and coffee, along with ten liters of cooking oil, into their car. When two gendarmes arrived on scene, they were immediately shot; one being killed and the other being critically injured. The gang stole both the Mercedes and another vehicle that was stolen in February. After shooting at a police car that began to follow them, they took a little known road and abandoned the vehicle that was stolen prior to this robbery. A fingerprint was recovered from it that apparently then disappeared.
14: On October 2, a restaurant in Ohain, Belgium was robbed. Nothing was stolen, but the owner was murdered.
15: Five days later, a supermarket in Beersel, Belgium was robbed. Less than 35,000 dollars was stolen and a customer was murdered.
16: On December 1, a jeweler in Anderlues, Belgium was robbed. Two people were murdered and some jewelry was taken.
The gang seemingly disappeared as mysteriously as they’d come. While the citizens of Brabant—and Belgium as a whole—breathed a sigh of relief, that would all change in 1985. It was this year that the gangs attacks increased in viciousness. Immensely.
17: On September 27, a supermarket in Braine-l’Alleud was robbed. Less than 6,000 dollars was stolen and three people were killed while another two were injured. A mere twenty or so minutes later, another robbery took place in Brusselsesteerweg in Overjise. It’s here that a banker was killed (remember this for later), along with four other people, while another was injured. Less than 25,000 dollars was stolen.
18: The final attack by the gang was on November 9 at a supermarket in Aalst. Once more, less than 25,000 dollars was stolen and eight people were murdered, included a nine year-old girl who was waiting in a car. The killers wore face paint and disguises for this attack which was a first. They roared and taunted customers as they cowered and cried on the ground. The gang, who were fond of 12 gauge shotguns that used a rare and expensive type of buckshot, killed anyone who looked at the them; the Killer justifying this as eliminating witnesses. These killings were described as “gratuitous executions”, and were sometimes performed with the Killer being as little as a foot away from the target.
When the gang left the supermarket and returned to their car, they didn’t immediately leave. When they did, they were pursued by law enforcement; exchanging bullets with them before eventually getting away. However, it’s believed that one of them—the Killer—was either wounded or killed in the shootout. In 2003, the theory was expanded upon: some believing that the gang eventually pulled over and executed their wounded comrade before burying him.
With that, the story of the Brabant Killers—the killers that have truly screwed me up six ways from Sunday—ends. Now onto theories. Or rather, the two sides to this mystery. The first is who the three men were. The second is why they did what they did. We shall both, starting with the who.
The first is a man named Christian Bonkoffsky, a former police commando. After his firearm accidentally discharged, Bonkoffsky was dismissed. Bitter about the incident, he drank until his death in 2015 at age 61. Supposedly, on his deathbed, he confessed to his brother about his involvement in the Brabant killings. However, nothing else has come forth in regards to connecting Bonkoffsky to the murders. A former girlfriend however did say that she told him that he resembled one of the police sketches. This supposedly made Bonkoffsky furious.
The second are far-left or far-right political activists attempting to destabilize the Belgian state. Europe during the Cold War—parts of it anyways—wasn’t totally stable. The idea that communist sympathizers—or those who wanted to strike fear into the hearts of anyone who may have been a communist—isn’t too far fetched. The latter of those two ideas is interesting though because, in spite of Belgium not being a communist state during the Cold War, there is a theory that a far right group known as the “Westland New Post” was involved in the killings. However, there’s never been any proof to support this. Still, the idea of a far right death squad murdering random people isn’t exactly the happiest thought.
The final suspects are Patrick Haemers and Madani Bouhouche. Haemers, whose height is said to match that of the Giant’s, was the leader of a gang and onced kidnapped the 41st Prime Minister of Belgium: Paul Vanden Boeynants. Although he had the height going for him, none of the crimes Haemers committed throughout his life (he died in 1993) were nowhere near as gratuitous as the ones carried about the Brabant killers.
On the other hand, Madani Bouhouche—who died in 2005—was a former policeman who was convicted of two murders among other crimes. While that, along with his knowledge of handling weaponry thanks to police training, may lead some to believe he may have had some sort of connection to the crimes, there’s no physical or forensic evidence to prove that. Still, every possibility counts and there’s one reason to believe Bouhouche may have been involved.
Said reason is why we now advance to the “why”. Our first reason is that police were complicit as it was rogue law enforcement. There have existed instances where law enforcement precincts have covered up one of their own being complicit in a murder, series of murders, drug trafficking, or even rapes. These happen all around the world and are done when precincts become infested with corrupt officials who desire power trips or to line their pockets with money and influential phone numbers. It happens and it will happen for the rest of time. There exist horrible, evil people out there. The idea that this was potentially a coverup on the Belgian authorities part however is questionable in the eyes of some and believable in the eyes of others. If Bouhouche was involved, this predates his first confirmed murder, which was in 1986. However, there’s evidence to support this and while some serial killers do “retire” from what they do, I don’t think there’s a gradual downfall from being an armed robber/murderer to just murderer. I’ll leave this to experts though.
The second and final is that this was just random. Nothing more, nothing less. Random, senseless acts of violence by demented, evil human beings who had no remorse for anyone. As sad as I am to say this, I feel this is the most likely theory. None of the attacks follow any sort of pattern. In some, people were killed, In others, they weren’t. In one case, someone was killed and nothing was taken. The risk versus reward for these robberies was equal to that of saying, “let’s rob Fort Knox to steal a guards chocolate bar”. They could have just as easily held up a gas station and before closing and gotten a fair bit of change, but they opted to steal money that, when split three ways, would’ve equaled less than ten thousand dollars. That, when combined with the numerous times they were likely to have been shot dead by law enforcement, leads me to believe that they did this for—at the absolute most—the thrill of it all.
There do exist some conspiracy theories to this case, such as it being the work of the Mafia, linking it to political assassinations, and a banker being deliberately targeted in one of the attacks. If I may get on my soapbox: conspiracies have no place in crimes such as this; a crime where the targets were random, the victims were random, and everything about it had absolutely no rhyme or reason. The one and only target seemed to be to instill terror in the hearts and minds of the populous. The mere idea that someone could suggest that it was a grand conspiracy is sickening.
Anyways, although there's a confession to back that seems plausible enough, there's never been enough sufficient evidence to seal the deal on anything. With any luck, something will come out of the confession. I also pray nobody uses these three monsters as inspiration for their own rampage in the future.