24 January 2009

Children die in frenzied knife attack on Belgian creche

By Bruno Waterfield in Dendermonde
Two unidentified persons hold a child with an identification number on his forehead, at a crisis center next to the scene of a stabbing incident at a daycare center in Dendermonde, Belgium - Photo: AP

Belgium's Crown Princess Mathilde talks to police officers and rescuers who helped earlier in the day victims of a knife attack at a creche in Dendermonde January 23, 2009. An assailant killed 2 children and an adult in the knife attack in western Belgium on Friday, authorities said. Ambulance services said at least 10 others had been injured. Foto: Reuters

A man killed two infant children and a female childcare worker during a frenzied knife attack on a creche in the Belgian town of Dendermonde on Friday.

The 25-year-old attacker, with painted white face and blackened eyes and wearing a bullet proof vest, tricked his way into the Fabeltjesland day care centre at 10am.

He immediately drew a knife and launched an attack on babies aged between a few months and two years old.

The woman who was killed was Marita Blindeman. There were 21 children in the creche and six supervisors.

" He left on a bicycle, acting as if nothing had happened " - A witness

Nine children escaped unharmed. Three of the creche's childcare workers were injured as they tried to fend off the attacker.

Theo Janssens, Dendermonde's deputy mayor, told a press conference that the man "just went crazy".

"There was blood everywhere, it was unbelievable, real carnage. He went straight for the babies and attacked them. The smallest ones were in their beds, they were probably asleep."

Following the attack, the man calmly left on his bicycle, triggering panic and forcing police to seal off all schools in the town.

The attacker was then arrested in a nearby supermarket still in possession of the knife he had used in the attack. Alphonso De Baaker, a local man and a retired teacher, described the attacker as known to the police and with a history of mental illness.

Khris Kieckens, the proprietor of the Pertotal bar on the same street as the creche, described how sobbing parents rushed to the scene.

"There was hysteria," he said. "One of my friends saw the attacker cycle off. His eyes were running with black ink, he was thin, tall and ginger haired."

Parents were taken to the nearby Zonnebloem social centre where they were shown digital photographs of infants and toddlers by police, asking them to identify their children.

Police and hospital sources said six children, between one and three, were seriously injured, another four less so. All 10 were last night out of danger after emergency surgery for their wounds.

"This was a particularly violent attack. All the kids had multiple stab wounds on their legs, arms and all over their bodies," said Dr Ignace Demeyer, director of the local hospital.

Piet Buyse, the mayor of Dendermonde, said: "An act of great brutality has happened here against our weakest citizens. The parents are in great shock and so is our city. The only thing we can do now is help with the aftermath, with our minds, our hearts and thoughts with the parents. We will do everything to support them."

Anna Lies Eckhout, a local mother collected her eight and 10-year-old children from the local school, Bijenkorf, just 200 metres from the attack, as fear gripped parents and the attacker was still on the loose.

"There was mass panic," she said.

"The school was sealed off. The headmaster was in the schoolyard with a megaphone calling the children inside."

Mrs Lies Eckhout said that lessons then retuned to normal after the attacker was caught. She said the creche was popular with parents, many of whom commuted in to nearby Brussels for work.

"Fabeltjesland has a really good reputation. No school can prepare for this," she said.

Nathalie Francois, another local mother, with her four year old daughter Tiani, came to Vufde Januarui Straat, the scene of the attack, to place flowers in driving rain and bitter winds.

"We are all very shocked. No one can believes that something like this anywhere, especially a small place like here," she said.

Source: the telegraph.co.uk


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