A 60-year-old gay man has been chopped to death in the city of Liège. The murder comes after a series of homophobic attacks across Belgium last week, including in Ghent and Aalst.
On Wednesday morning (25 July) Belgian police arrested Raphaël Wargnies, from Malmedy who confessed to hacking to death a 60-year-old man with an axe.
According to Wargnies, he intentionally visited a known cruising area, Parc d'Avroy in the center of Liège where he was approached by a 60-year-old Jacques Konik who suggested they perform oral sex.
Wargnier confessed that he was filled with rage and hit Konik’s head with an axe, and then chopped him five times, before fleeing the scene of the crime.
Konik was found by a passer-by who alerted emergency services. Unfortunately the man lost too much blood and despite repeated resuscitation attempts was pronounced dead 20 minutes later.
Police received a call from one of Wargnier's friends who reported he heard him talk about the murder.
Wargnier was arrested shortly after and claimed, in his ‘defense’, that he was ‘violated’ in the same spot a year ago and his motivation was ‘revenge’. He admitted to having visited the scene of the crime several times before carrying the axe.
Police were unable to verify his claims, but Wargnier is known to the authorities for being an alcoholic, and in June 2011 he tried to hack through the gates of a court of law in the town of Verviers with an axe.
The murder in Liège comes after a series of homophobic attacks across the country in the last few weeks.
In Ghent a 20-year-old gay man was attacked by a gang of three young men in a park on 24 July. There were also assaults in Aalst and Antwerp.
And on 22 April, Ihsane Jarfi, a 32-year-old gay man, was brutally attacked and beaten in Liège, also by a group of four young men.
The attacks have led the Belgian government to strengthen the criminal code regarding hate crimes, which now carries up a minimum sentence of 20 years up to life imprisonment for murder and a minimum of five up to 30 years for assault.
Reacting to the news of Konik’s murder, Minister of the Interior and Equal Opportunities Joëlle Milquet, said on Wednesday she was ‘strongly shocked and concerned'.
She said: 'These offences and crimes are intolerable and despicable and legitimize the strong measures taken.
‘If justice will indeed confirm this as a homophobic crime, this new death joins a particularly dark spell of assaults committed against gays throughout the country, including Antwerp, Aalst, East Flanders and Ghent, since the murder of Ihsane Jarfi.’
The minister presented her condolences to Konik's relatives as well as to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender associations across the country.
The mayor of Liège has met with the local LGBT association, Fédération Arc-en-Ciel Wallonie, to coordinate a plan of action.
He announced there would be a policy of ‘zero tolerance towards hate crimes’ and that the city would be launching a special training programme for the local police to deal with such crimes.