Brussels: A 37-year-old man who said he had felt humiliated by his teacher in primary school has confessed to stabbing her to death three decades later, according to Belgian prosecutors.
Gunter Uwents told investigators he had never got over his alleged experience with Maria Verlinden, 59, in the 1990s when he was seven years old.
He claimed to have lost control when he visited her in November 2020 at her home in the village of Noordwijk, near Antwerp. She was stabbed 101 times and died in her kitchen.
Verlinden was known as a devout Christian who had a record of helping homeless people.
The crime had gone unsolved for 16 months despite police taking hundreds of DNA samples to try to find the culprit. Her husband made a public appeal for witnesses.
Her purse containing cash was left untouched on the dining table next to her body, suggesting she had not been the victim of a violent robbery.
But in March last year, Uwents had admitted the crime to a friend who alerted police, prosecutors said. He was arrested on Sunday.
Uwents has provided a DNA sample to be compared with traces found at the crime scene. As a former pupil, he was in any case due to be caught up in the genetic sampling dragnet.
Lut Verlinden, 62, the victim’s sister, who also taught Uwents in the 1990s, told Het Nieuwsblad: “We are all confused. I have contacted all former colleagues with whom Gunter was in class, but no one can remember an incident between him and Maria.
“Gunter was always a quiet, introverted boy. There was nothing more to say about him. His parents are also very good Catholic people. I feel sorry for them because they will never dare to show themselves in Noorderwijk again, I’m afraid.”
According to local media, Uwents told detectives that as a child he had been “bullied, humiliated and belittled” by classmates and that his teacher had ignored him.
“When I raised my hand, she always pointed out someone else to answer – never me,” he told police according to one account. “And that made me very unhappy.”
Uwents claimed that he had only gone to his victim’s house “for a good conversation” but that she had laughed at him and dismissed him as “a dork”. He further claimed that he had not brought a knife to the house. Police are yet to find the murder weapon.
The local prosecutors’ office said Uwents had provided “detailed explanations” for his actions, which amounted to a confession.
Uwents appeared before a judge on Tuesday and has been placed in custody on a murder charge.