Belgian murder mystery: Young lord slain in castle

Feb 18, 2012, 4:31 PM

Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) – It seems a mystery worthy of Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s fictional Belgian detective: A lord goes missing from his chateau, leaving behind a spent cartridge and a trail of blood. His body is discovered 15 days later, buried in a forest.

Belgian newspapers Saturday were chewing over what’s being called the “Murder at the Castle” _ the case of 34-year-old Stijn Saelens, the lord of Wingene Castle. And the speculation, fueled by police arrests and questioning, has run rampant.

Was he done in by his in-laws, who opposed his plan to move to Australia with his wife and four children to take up organic farming? Or by Chechen criminals operating in Belgium? Or perhaps by an unholy alliance of the two?

Saelens disappeared from his chateau, a large turreted affair about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Brussels, on Jan. 31. Foul play was suspected immediately: Newspapers and broadcasters have reported that blood was found inside the house and along the driveway.

His body was found Friday, buried in a forest about a 15-minute drive away _ a day after police arrested three people, including the lord’s father-in-law and brother-in-law, identified by 7sur7, a major Belgian news website, as Andre and Peter Ghyselbrecht, were arrested along with a friend of the father-in-law’s named Pierre Serry.

The broadcaster RTL reported that investigators had discovered that Saelens was in debt, and planned to take his family to Australia to live in a Russian community called Ringing Cedars, where he would start an organic farm.

A lawyer for the father-in-law said he was innocent and had a “perfect alibi.”

Nor are the unnamed Chechens off the hook. Three were detained and questioned Thursday, the day the other three men were arrested, then released for lack of proof. RTL reported that a plan of the lord’s chateau was found in their car.

A crime reporter for the broadcaster VRT said the detentions made it appear that investigators suspected a contract killing, involving somebody who ordered the hit, a mediator and the people who committed the slaying.

“It’s not clear why these people have been detained,” the reporter, Philip Heymans, offered. “But it is a meaningful development.”

The newspaper La Capitale focused Saturday on the story it said Saelens’s wife, Elysabeth Gyselbrecht, had given to investigators _ that her husband told her he wanted to be alone in the chateau the morning he disappeared, so she left.

The newspaper also reported that Elysabeth Gyselbrecht told investigators that she went to Pierre Serry’s home the day after her husband’s disappearance and confronted him.

“Do you have something to do with the disappearance of my husband?” she told investigators she asked Serry, the paper reported. To which Serry is reported to have replied, “No.”

The discovery of the body, buried, accompanied by the presence of a police crane in the area, seemed to suggest, however, that the police had received specific information about the location. That only heightened media interest in the case. Two journalists were detained after entering the area that had been cordoned off by police.

And interest in the case seemed likely to grow. As La Capitale newspaper opined in a news article on Saturday, “Despite the discovery of the body, the story seems far from being explained.”


Follow Don Melvin at

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

This illustration made available by Johns Hopkins APL and NASA depicts NASA's DART probe, upper rig...
Associated Press

NASA spacecraft smashes into asteroid for defense test

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.
6 days ago
In this Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Pres...
Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters angry over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody have killed at least nine people since the violence erupted over the weekend, according to a tally Thursday by The Associated Press. The scope of Iran’s ongoing unrest, the worst in […]
10 days ago
Royal guards stand by the coffin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, as members of the public pay thei...
Associated Press

Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral | Live updates

WINDSOR, England — Queen Elizabeth II has been interred together with her late husband, Prince Philip, at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, officials said. The royal family’s official website said the Dean of Windsor conducted a private burial ceremony late Monday at the King George VI Memorial Chapel, an annex inside St. George’s, a […]
13 days ago
Britain's King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort leave after a Service of Prayer and Refle...
Associated Press

Live updates: Queen’s funeral police effort is biggest ever

LONDON — London police say Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday will be the largest single policing event the force has ever handled. Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said Friday that the massive police operation surpasses even the 2012 Olympics, which were held in the British capital, and the celebrations earlier this year […]
16 days ago
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a medical worker takes a swab sample from a resident ...
Associated Press

WHO: COVID end ‘in sight,’ deaths at lowest since March 2020

GENEVA (AP) — The head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide last week was the lowest reported in the pandemic since March 2020, marking what could be a turning point in the years-long global outbreak. At a press briefing in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said […]
18 days ago
Kenya's new president William Ruto signs the book of condolence for Queen Elizabeth II at the resid...
Associated Press

Live updates: Public views queen’s coffin in ancient hall

LONDON — Members of the public who waited outside for many hours are filing through Westminster Hall to pay their respects at the queen’s coffin, which is lying in state there. People are filing past each side of the coffin, most pausing for a brief moment to bow their heads. Some wiped their eyes while […]
18 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Belgian murder mystery: Young lord slain in castle