Text message leads Belgian police to suspects

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Belgian teenager, beaten with a bat and stuffed into a car trunk, made a last, futile call for help, sending her father a cell phone text message that his girlfriend was trying to kill her, officials said Tuesday.

Stephanie De Mulder’s father, who was on vacation in the Netherlands, found the message on his telephone only a day later. By that time, the body of his 18-year-old daughter, dressed in her nightgown, had been dumped in the waters off the port of Antwerp.

The live-in girlfriend, Maura Van Lommel, and her 23-year-old son, Andy, were detained and confessed to the killing, the girlfriend’s lawyer said. Divers recovered the girl’s body Saturday.

“At the [court] session, she expressed regret at what has happened,” lawyer Steff Stevens told reporters.

Help, Maura is killing me’
On Aug. 11, De Mulder wrote a text message to her father, Gilbert De Mulder, saying, “Help, Maura is killing.”

Gilbert De Mulder told investigators that he did not see the message until the next day. He then called police, who tracked down Van Lommel and her son, who led investigators to the body.

“Both have confessed to murder, but we have no idea about the motive,” Stevens told the Belgian TV station VRT.

Gilbert De Mulder said he believed that Van Lommel, his girlfriend of five years, was jealous of his close relationship with his daughter.

“I don’t understand that,” he told the newspaper Het Belang van Limburg. “It is only normal that you have a strong relationship with your daughter. None of my relationships has ever come between me and my child.”

According to police, Van Lommel and her son went into the teenager’s bedroom the night of Aug. 11, struck her with a baseball bat and threw the unconscious body down the stairs to try to make it look like an accident. Van Lommel and her son each accused the other of wielding the bat.

They then allegedly put her in the trunk of a car and drove from the home in Mechelen to Antwerp, 20 miles away, where the body was thrown into the harbor.

Stephanie De Mulder apparently regained consciousness briefly and sent the text message from inside the trunk, according to investigators.

Wednesday, officials will take the Van Lommels back to the brick row house in Mechelen, just north of Brussels, where the attack occurred. Reenactments of crimes are a common practice in Belgium and are designed to retrace the victim’s last steps and determine whether suspects’ statements are credible.

If convicted of premeditated murder, the Van Lommels could face up to life in prison.