What could have been the motivation for the horrific massacres in Brabant, Belgium?

This is one of the weirdest unsolved mysteries from recent history, and after several decades of research and investigation there has still been no consensus as to why three unidentified men including an extremely tall guy nicknamed “The Giant”, committed around a dozen robberies, accompanied by indiscriminate mass killing of witnesses and bystanders, only to steal petty items like coffee, wine, cooking oil. (Seriously!)

In the years between 1982 and 1985, 28 people were killed in these attacks and 40 injured. The M.O. was always the same. There are a number of bizarre details as well. For one, they meticulously planned the robberies, using getaway drivers in fast cars and taking escape routes using obscure roads to evade capture every time; on top of that, when one of their getaway cars was impounded, they stole it back from the police. As mentioned before, they took things like coffee and wine and small amounts of cash. Also, in the last incident, they apparently wore bizarre costumes and masks. It was in this incident that they “roared at and taunted customers,” according to Wikipedia, and “shot anyone who looked at them, including children.”

There have been speculations, but nothing conclusive, that the attacks were actually a politically motivated terrorist plot. One of their victims, the caretaker of a hotel who they tortured and killed during an attack on that hotel, was named Jose Vanden Eynde and Vanden Eynde had been a member of a fascist organization, having served in the Spanish Civil War on the side of Francisco Franco and supposedly maintained ties to said organization. This connection has been proposed as a motivation for the attack, but none of the other victims fit any kind of pattern at all, so it may have been completely coincidental.

There’s also the possibility that the attackers were actually members of the police or military. There were a number of high profile instances of police corruption around the same timeframe of these massacres. A dirty cop by the name of Madani Bouhouche was convicted of murder along with another Belgian gendarme, Robert Beijer - they were apparently acting on behalf of organized crime.

Indeed, revelations recently about a supposed deathbed confession of one of the attackers, “The Giant”, seemed to yield a very promising lead. A longtime police officer and member of an elite military counterterrorism squad, Christian Bonkoffsky (does everyone involved in this have to have such a ridiculous name?) supposedly confessed to his brother in 2015 that he was “the giant” from these attacks, and the resemblance between him and the forensic sketch of “The Giant” is dead-on, even down to the hat (!) which is yet another absurd detail of the story.

However, further followup on his police connections and his possible involvement in the attacks have yielded no conclusive evidence, and have not resulted in any new information about any of the other killers or anything about their motivations.

Is there anyone here from Belgium who remembers this on the news and followed the investigation? Is there anyone else at all who’s familiar with it? And does anyone have any theories?

This is the first I’ve ever heard of the case but man oh man, that sounds like a friggin nightmare, eh.

When the DC snipers were arrested it turned out that the leader, John Muhammad, had a deep murderous grudge against his ex-wife, who lived in the area. My suspicion–and it’s only that–is that he figured if he killed her, he’d be the prime suspect. But if he made it look like she was another unfortunate victim of a mad shooter he’d be in the clear. So he shoots a lot of people as cover. (He never did get around to his wife, but I don’t think he expected to get caught.)

Maybe something like that was going on here. They had a target, but killed a lot of people as cover.

They did steal a bit more than food and wine. The first theft was of a weapon (a shotgun); then some cars; then, OK, food and wine; but then they stole a whole mess of guns (including submachine guns). Then coffee and wine. But then:

(And also some bullet-proof vests.) And remember, this was all in the early to mid Eighties, so you need to multiply all those amounts by about two-and-a-half to give 2018 purchasing power.

But it’s definitely extraordinarily bizarre, and they did seem to spend a lot of time stealing tea and coffee and cooking oil, even after they’d stolen tens of thousands of dollars and could presumably have just bought some damned tea and coffee and cooking oil with less risk and trouble. (And of course they were also brutal murderers and torturers, but that doesn’t necessarily make them weird, it just makes them violent criminal presumably sociopathic scumbags.)

In a weird way, the whole thing reminds me of pirates. As TVTropes notes:

But of course 18th century sea rovers couldn’t just stop off at the supermarket (or the grocery stoRRRe) for fresh supplies, whereas presumably 1980s Belgian armed robbers could. So, yeah, the whole thing is exceedingly weird.

I don’t know. TWELVE armed robberies and assorted burglaries and shootings all over Belgium to “cover” for one assassination? I think, like, one or two would have sufficed.

Here’s what’s driving me crazy about this case:

The excessive brutality of the murders, and the extremely public nature of them, and the fact that the perpetrators were skilled enough to never get caught, are three things that distinguish these crimes, but it seems like typically you have to chose two of those, just like the expression “fast, cheap, easy - choose two.”

The murder of Jose Vanden Eynde - he was crucified on a bed frame, burned with cigarettes, and shot in the head eight times - is more like something a cult would do, than a group of profit-motivated stickup men. They shot young children in the face. Almost nobody in the world is capable of that kind of sadism - most people can be trained to kill in war if necessary (and even then, they don’t typically enjoy doing it) but very few are sociopathic enough to do that kind of shit.

The few who are, are usually such fucked up people that they can’t get anyone to follow them, and usually have to do the deeds themselves, in total secrecy. Usually. You sometimes get cult leader types who manipulate other people into helping them. There have also been occasional serial killer duos, yeah.

But then what are the odds of those kind of people also being skilled enough in terms of - essentially - urban warfare tactics? Having the organization to get away successfully every single time, and even successfully break into a police impound to steal back their getaway car?

This level of competence does not typically overlap with the mindset that drives either cults, or thrill killers.

Were they police? “The Giant” may have been, if Christian Bonkoffsky is the giant, which we still don’t really know for sure. There seem to be about a million pictures online from the Bonkoffsky family photo album of this guy carrying on with his friends and family, dressed in weird costumes, and posed for official police or military promotional photos - it’s fucked up to think that a guy with that public of a profile could have secretly been involved in this shit. What are the odds of not one, but THREE, police officers who had the desire to pull off attacks like this - what are the odds that they’d all be working in the same department and that any one of them would even make his intentions known to the other two?

It is baffling to comprehend.

I’ve heard that called “ABC murders”. As in, you want to kill Person C, but to avoid any obvious motives you kill People A, B, C, D and so on.

I’m still stuck in this rabbit hole, and I found this picture of Christian Bonkoffsky (far right) at some kind of costume party, wearing a pirate hat and huge glasses that look exactly like the forensic sketch of “the Giant”.

Two of the other guys (no idea who they are or if they have any connection at all to the killings) are wearing fake noses.

Is there any possibility that this was inspired by A Clockwork Orange?

The obvious question arises as to why they stopped in 1985: arrest, death…?

That’s pretty much the plot of Agatha Christie’s novel The ABC Murders…

The target, if I remember correctly, had C as one or both initials, and lived in a town that also started with C. So the killer duplicated those conditions first with A, then B, then C (the intended victim), and I don’t remember if they got to D before Poirot caught them.

I don’t know if Christie was the first but there have been many episodes of various TV detective shows (e.g. Murder She Wrote) that have used this plot device. I checked with TV Tropes and couldn’t find it there, but whenever you have a plot where there are multiple murders using the same MO but otherwise apparently unrelated, chances are it will end up being some variant of this plot.

As to why they stopped in 1985, perhaps they had done enough jobs to cover the killing(s) they actually wanted to accomplish.

I think there’s no way in hell that a series of ongoing attacks all over Belgium over a period of three years, were carried out to cover up anything.

I do think that the police were either paid off to deliberately lose evidence, drop leads, or otherwise botch the investigation - or was, for whatever reason, the actual perpetrator of the attacks - and that’s a big ‘whatever’, because, seriously, why?

But what is the likelihood that there just happened to be TWO extremely tall guys with huge eyeglasses who wore weird hats and had mustaches, and one of them was a member of a corrupt police force, and the other…was some other guy?

Is it possible that the killers were disgruntled police officers who were trying to embarrass the police department and make them look stupid/incompetent? Were they blackmailed into committing the attacks by someone who had leverage over them, part of some kind of sadistic game that a “Die Hard” villain would play?

There are theories that the attacks were intended to get the government to declare martial law, either for the purposes of instituting some kind of military coup, or providing cover for a revolt against the government by a revolutionary group - but who? No connections to extremist groups have been proven, though many have been suggested.

As an aside, why would a right-wing terrorist organization call itself The Westland New Post? What the hell is that supposed to mean? The three words have individual meanings - sort of - “Westland” is apparently a part of the Netherlands, what does “New Post” mean? It sounds like some kind of newspaper.

An article quoting Christian Bonkoffsky’s ex-wife as implicating him as “the giant.” Inadvertantly made hilarious in translation.

Googling pictures of Christian Bonkoffsky and Madani Bouhouche gives the impression that 1980s Belgium was directed by Wes Anderson.

Wikipedia article calls these people the “Gang of Nijvel”.

Another possibility is that one of them (‘The Killer’) got a little too comfortable with violence even for his co-perpetrators—or at least that’s the interpretation these passages from wikipedia suggest to me:


I’ve heard it as “hiding a body in a pile of bodies”.

  1. The idea of someone exchanging shots with police while “walking” alongside the getaway car, is almost Monty Python-esque.

  2. It’s killing me how cryptic this Wikipedia writeup is. “The person was spotted on a forest road, on the ground, apparently seriously injured.” That’s it. No elaboration. No explanation of who spotted him and what was done after he was spotted.

I’m still holding out hope that there’s Belgians here on this board who might have first-hand recollections of these incidents (from the news) at the time and remember any other details.

Ich auch!

I posted a post about this on my Facebook page which I boosted to audiences in the Belgian provinces where these incidents occurred, and it actually wound up getting some commentary. Most of them seem to think it’s a government conspiracy.

Paging Les Espaces Du Sommeil … paging Les Espaces Du Sommeil

If only Poirot could return to his native Belgium, I’m sure he would clear this one up in no time!