الأربعاء , يونيو 17 2020

Body found in Belgian minister hunt

Steve Stevaert with Princess Mathilde in 2007

Mr Stevaert, here with Princess Mathilde before she became queen, was previously a provincial governor

Belgian police searching for missing politician Steve Stevaert, 61, have found a body in a canal.

Divers and a boat began scouring the Albert canal in Hasselt in north-eastern Belgium after two jackets he owned were found in the water.

Mr Stevaert, a minister of state, had learned earlier that prosecutors in Brussels had decided to take him to court over a rape allegation.

The case dated back to 2010 and he had vehemently denied the allegation.

Belgian media said it was not yet clear whether the politician’s disappearance was linked to the case.

Search at Albert canal (2 April)

The alarm was raised when Mr Stevaert’s bicycle and two jackets were found at the Albert canal

A party colleague told Flemish TV that the body found in the canal was Mr Stevaert’s.

A boat with sonar equipment had earlier detected the shape of a body close to where his belongings had earlier been found.

His bike was also found alongside the canal.

TV show

Mr Stevaert is a former chairman of the Flemish Social Democrat party and governor of the north-eastern province of Limburg.

A spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor had announced earlier on Thursday that he was to be prosecuted for rape, indecent assault and abuse of office.

According to Belgian media, the alleged victim made no complaint until 2013, and Mr Stevaert was then questioned by police.

The incident dated back to a TV programme, on which they were both guests, presented by a former Miss Belgium, Goedele Liekens, who has fronted talkshows on Dutch as well as Belgian TV.

Although Mr Stevaert had admitted that they had sexual relations, he denied rape, reports said.

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