Two Islamist brothers who carried out the devastating Belgium suicide bomb attacks confessed to shooting dead a 76-year-old man at random to see what killing was like, their co-conspirators claim.
Ibrahim and Khalid El-Bakraoui allegedly killed Paul-André Vanderperren, 76, at random in 2014 – two years before carrying out two separate bomb attacks in Brussels killing 31.
Three devastating suicide bombs went off on March 22, 2016 – injuring hundreds of people.
At 8am, two bombs were detonated at Zaventem Airport by Ibrahim and co-conspirator Najim Laachraoui, causing the deaths of 14 people near the check-in desks.
More than an hour later, at 9.19am, a third bomb was detonated at Maalbeek Metro station by Khalid, killing another 20 people.
A third airport attacker – whose device failed to go off – so-called ‘man in the hat’ Mohamed Abrini was arrested in Brussels nearly a month after the attacks.
The El-Bakraoui brothers told their fellow attackers that they shot dead Mr Vanderperren ahead of the bombings to ‘test what it was like to kill someone’.
Ibrahim (right) and Khalid El-Bakraoui (left) allegedly killed Paul-André Vanderperren, 76, at random in 2014 – two years before carrying out two separate bomb attacks in Brussels killing 31
Mr Vanderperren was killed in the Jette municipality of Brussels and his case has never been solved.
Mr Vanderperren (pictured) was killed in the Jette municipality of Brussels and his case has never been solved
He had watched football club Anderlecht play on television in a cafe and was heading home when he was shot.
Police issued an appeal for witnesses in 2018, but the case was closed last year.
But two surviving attackers of the Belgium suicide bomb atrocity – ‘man in the hat’ Abrini and another assailant, Osama Krayem – claim Ibrahim and Khalid said they were responsible for Mr Vanderperren’s death.
Abrini and Krayem – who was caught with Khalid on CCTV moments before he set off the bomb – are facing trial next year.
Krayem is said to have told interviewing police officers in 2016 that ‘Khalid told me he and Ibrahim had shot someone dead on the street’, Flemish newspaper De Morgan reports.
Two years later, Krayem added: ‘Khalid explained it was an elderly person and that they had wanted to test what it was like to kill someone.’
As both men are now dead, it is unlikely that the case will be reopened as the allegations are considered hearsay.
Three devastating suicide bombs went off on March 22, 2016 – injuring hundreds of people. At 8am, two bombs were detonated at Zaventem Airport (the aftermath, pictured) by Ibrahim and Najim Laachraoui, causing the deaths of 14 people near the check-in desks
The El-Bakraoui brothers told their fellow attackers that they shot dead Mr Vanderperren ahead of the bombings (the aftermath, pictured) to ‘test what it was like to kill someone’
A prosecution spokesperson in Belgium told the BBC: ‘During the investigation of this murder we weren’t able to identify the person responsible and as of October 2020 the chambre du conseil (pre-trial court division) has decided to close the case.
‘If there is new evidence we could open the file again but as of today there are no new elements that weren’t investigated.’
Vanderperren’s heartbroken widow said she is ‘still left with plenty of questions but in a way it’s a relief’ to have some idea about who killed her husband.
A victim receives first aid by rescuers, on March 22, 2016, near Maalbeek metro station in Brussels, after one of the bombs went off
More than 300 people were wounded in suicide bomb attacks in 2016, which were claimed by ISIS.
But those thought to have suffered physical or mental trauma as a result of the attack is said to have been closer to 1,000.
Investigators say the blasts were carried out by a network that was also behind the November 2015 Paris attacks – and acted on orders from the ISIS high command.
All the suspects were linked to an ISIS cell led by Paris ringleader and Syria veteran Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a man of Belgian-Moroccan origin.
Airport bomber Laachraoui was identified as chief bombmaker for the Paris attacks.