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Group robbed gay men lured to carpark via dating app
Five men have been handed suspended sentences of between two-and-a-half and three years for luring gay men to a parking area in East Flanders in order to rob and humiliate them. While the incidents happened last summer, they are eerily reminiscent of the death of a gay man in a park last month, also in East Flanders.
The five men, all in their 20s, used gay dating sites to meet men at the carpool parking area on the E17 at Waasmunster (pictured), halfway between Ghent and Antwerp. According to the public prosecutor, the group was “very well organised”, with everyone having an active role in the incidents. “The victims have suffered enormous trauma,” said the prosecutor during the hearing.
The robberies took place over the course of last summer. Men arrived at the parking area, where they were attacked, a sack placed over their heads and threatened with a fake gun. They were forced to hand over their bank cards and PIN numbers. One of the thieves then went to a bank machine to get money. If he was successful, the victim was let go.
While four men were plaintiffs in the case, it is not known how many victims there actually are in total. The five men convicted, meanwhile, are a group of long-time friends, having gone to school together in Waasmunster. They have caused problems in the town before, according to the public prosecutor.
‘We weren’t thinking’
“We were just stupid, we weren’t thinking,” said the suspects in court, who also denied that they were engaging in gay bashing. “It was just about stealing their money,” they said.
The group, however, sometimes did more than rob the victims. One victim testified that he was taken to a shed and forced to undress; another was held hostage in the woods for hours. “I spent four hours convinced that I would not survive this,” one of them told the court. “I said goodbye. I didn’t feel like a human being anymore.”
The men who are convicted of the crimes provided no explanation for this behaviour. They are all on probation, serving out their sentences volunteering at an organisation that works with victims of violent crimes and following a course on the same subject.
Death in Beveren
While the incidents are unrelated, Waasmunster is just 20 kilometres southwest of Beveren, where a gay man from nearby Sint-Niklaas was beaten to death early last month. David P was also deceived by a fake profile on a dating app. When he arrived at the park, he was attacked by three minors.
The three are being held in a juvenile detention facility, with two of them scheduled for a hearing tomorrow. It will be decided at that time if their detention will be extended.
The detention of the third, who will appear in court separately, was extended yesterday by a month. The public prosecutor has not released any details of the boys’ statements or motives.
Photo courtesy Google