After a month and three days of intense hunting, the military shooting instructor Jürgen Conings, 46, was found dead this Sunday (20) in Belgium of the greatest Belgian virologists and then disappeared.
The main suspicion is that he committed suicide, according to the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office. possibility already suggested by the police since the end of May. In a note to his girlfriend before he disappeared, he wrote: “I join the resistance. Maybe I won’t survive.”
The body was found by hunter Leonard Houbenum, who was cycling through a national park in northeastern Belgium, on the border with the Netherlands. More than 350 police and military, search dogs, helicopters and dozens of military vehicles searched the area for Conings, where his car had been found with the most dangerous weapons and a backpack with ammunition.
The hunter smelled a strong smell as he passed a trail this Sunday morning and returned to the area later to see if there was a dead boar or deer.
To local media, Houbenum reported that the person he found dead had a beard, wore black clothes and carried a small gun, a more powerful one, an ax, a pocket knife and ammunition.
Federal police teams surrounded the site, awaiting a coroner and the bomb squad, over fears the ex-soldier had set a trap.
Specialist in “camouflage and aiming”, the day of the disappearance of the ex-soldier, he had ambushed Marc van Ranst, one of the most prominent virologists in the country and the most popular, with frequent appearances on radio and television.
In a message left at the barracks, from which he took a “small arsenal”, according to the police, he wrote: “I cannot live with the lies of those who decide how we are to live. The so-called political elite and now virologists are also deciding how you and I should live. They sow hatred and frustration, worse than they already were ”.
Conings spent three hours waiting for Van Ranst on the street where the virologist lives, but luckily he had returned from work earlier today and was already home with his wife and 12-year-old son. Since then, the family has lived in a hiding place guarded by security guards.
The former soldier’s body was found on the virologist’s 56th birthday. After the news, Van Ranst wrote on social media that his thoughts were with Jürgen Conings’ family. “This is particularly sad news for them as they have lost a relative, family member or friend.”
It is not yet certain that he can come out of hiding, because he has been the target of other threats in recent times: since the start of the pandemic, he claims to fight “against the two diseases in Belgium: the coronavirus and the Flemish extreme ”. right”.
On the Belgian police counterterrorism list, Conings has been described as a “potentially violent extremist with extremist views who intends to resort to violence but has not yet taken concrete steps to do so”. by far-right Vlaams Belang, who accuses virologists of restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus, seen as a violation of their freedoms.
Vlaams Belang, for his part, said they had no connection with Conings’ actions or responsibility towards them, but endorsed his “state of mind”. While tracking down the ex-soldier, party chairman Tom van Grieken said: “The acts Conings wants to do are wrong, but the unease he describes is widespread.”
Despite the relief at the end of the police hunt, the Belgian Ministry of Defense has still not reacted because a man already identified as dangerous was able to extract from the depot of the barracks a rocket launcher, a P90 submachine gun – a light weapon semi-automatic which can bulletproof vests, according to the Belgian army, and a 5.7mm pistol, as well as “enough ammunition for a small war”.
European countries have warned of the growth of the far right within the armed forces, documented in recent reports in Germany and the UK.
An initial internal investigation has exposed structural flaws, and a special investigative committee is expected to report later this month. Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder said she was implementing measures to “combat extremist ideology within defense” and prevent similar incidents in the future.
The Federal Prosecutor’s Office will also investigate the causes of Conings’ death — family members said they doubted the suicide hypothesis and believed he was killed by search troops, in a operation which, until last week, had already consumed 650,000 euros (almost R $ 4 mi).