Story By: Conor Sheils, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
This former couple convicted in absentia of murdering a Brit businessman over a 500,000-GBP debt before going on the run and living a celebrity lifestyle for two decades have been granted a retrial.
Jean-Claude Lacote, 53, and Hilde Van Acker, 57, have been granted the right to have their case heard again after they were finally nabbed in the Ivory Coast in November last year and extradited to Belgium.
The couple were sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for the murder of British businessman Marcus Mitchell in December 2011.
Mr Mitchell’s body was found in sand dunes in the Belgian coastal town De Haan with two gunshot wounds – one in the head and one in the neck – in 1996.
At the time officials investigating the case said that the deceased had lent around 500,000 GBP to the couple which they were supposedly using to secure a deal in Libya.
The deal apparently never happened and the pair allegedly killed him when he asked for the cash back.
According to reports, the couple then allegedly fled to the UK on a ferry the day after the murder.
The pair were arrested when they returned to Belgium, but were released due to a lack of evidence by the end of 1996 and allegedly fled the country.
What followed was a bizarre string of events wherein the couple fled to Brazil, South Africa and later to the Ivory Coast despite an international warrant for their arrest.
Lacote even managed to launch a TV career in Brazil where he hosted a reality TV series about crime.
The show is said to have highlighted how the police ‘dealt with violent criminals and dangerous crime scenes’.
Lacote was then arrested in 2007 on suspicion of defrauding an Irish businessman while on the run.
Meanwhile back in Belgium, the pair were sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia over the murder in December 2011 but it wasn’t until November last year that Lacote and his now ex-wife were arrested in Abidjan, the west African country’s capital.
They both were extradited to Belgium on February 18 this year with Van Acker now reportedly suffering from breast cancer.
Once back in Belgium they launched an appeal against their conviction.
The Belgian courts have now ruled that the objection is admissible and the second trial against Lacote and Van Acker is reportedly likely to start in the autumn at a court in the Belgian city of Bruges.
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