Friday 15 December 2017

Face of Belgian killer revealed as police discover body of cleaning lady in his home

Nordine Amrani
Nordine Amrani
A temporary field hospital set up to deal with those injured in the grenade attacks in Liege

Bruno Waterfield in Liege and Alex Spillius in London

BELGIAN police have found the body of a woman at the home of the lone gunman who spread terror in the city of Liege yesterday, killing four people, including a 17 month old baby.

At least 75 people were injured after Nordine Amrani (33) opened fire and threw hand grenades on to a square packed with Christmas shoppers -- before killing himself.

A 75-year-old woman and two teenage boys were also killed in to the attack.

When police searched his home last night they found the body of a 45-year-old woman who had been working as a cleaner for his neighbour.

She had been missing since Amrani asked to see her about offering her some extra work.

The killer was known to police as a criminal and gun-lover but the motive for the attack is unknown.

Police stressed that Mr Amrani had no known links to terrorism or any history of mental illness or violent crime.

But it did emerge that he was released on parole last year from a 58-month sentence for possessing weapons and 2,800 cannabis plants.

The city's mayor said the teenagers were celebrating finishing their exams and were heading to the Christmas market when they were killed.

Mr Amrani was due to attend a police interview in the late morning but never showed up. Instead he left his apartment armed with a Belgian-made FAL automatic rifle, a handgun and up to a dozen grenades carried in a backpack.

He drove the 10-minute journey from his 1930s apartment building, Residence Belvedere, and parked his white van in Place St Lambert near the popular Le Point Chaud bakery.

He walked steadily on to the bakery's flat roof and from his 15ft-high vantage point lobbed three hand grenades towards a busy bus shelter before opening fire on the crowd.

The attack sent terrified people running for their lives. Several hours later, many still sat weeping on pavements amid the screech of ambulance sirens and the din of helicopters overhead. More than 50 people were treated by dozens of paramedics who had raced to the scene.

A magistrate at the courthouse that faces the square described how he came face to face with the killer.

"I saw him standing 20 metres away," he said. "He looked at me, I looked at him. I pulled a few steps back, to get out of his sight and to get my phone out. But then there was an explosion. I took cover and I saw him throwing grenades."


Nicolas Gilenne, a journalist who had just left the courthouse when the attack started, said: "I saw a man wave his arm and throw something at the bus shelter. I heard an explosion. He turned around, picked something else up, pulled the pin. He was alone and seemed very much in control."

Another witness said Mr Amrani was wearing a long raincoat. "After the first explosion I was swept away in a wave of people running. They were screaming, it was horrible," he said.

Other witnesses said Mr Amrani shot himself in the head with a handgun, but Danielle Reynders, public prosecutor in the city of 196,000, said it was not clear if he had killed himself or died from shrapnel wounds caused by one his grenades. She said he still had a number of grenades in his backpack when he died.

In 2008 Amrani was sentenced to 58 months in prison for illegal possession of ten firearms, 9,500 "gun parts" and 2,800 cannabis plants but was granted parole last year. He also had convictions for pimping and trafficking stolen goods.

A weapons aficionado, he was said to be able to dismantle, repair and put together all sorts of weapons but was never linked to any terrorist act or network.

"It was a lone gunman," said Benoit Ramacker, centre for the Federal Crisis Centre, referring to reports in the initial confusion that there had been three or four assailants.

"It's very difficult to determine the reasons for the attack, but we're investigating all avenues."

Official sources said police had recently raided Amrani's home in Liege seeking cannabis plants but had found firearms instead.

Speaking from her apartment door, Madame Luyx an elderly neighbour, who lived opposite his apartment, said: "We knew he had been to prison. I was worried so I always kept my door locked."

Natasha Kos-Princen, another neighbour, on the floor below, was in a Quick hamburger cafe near the square where attacks took place.

"I got home and then the police turned up and said 'you that guy who killed all the people? Well he lives here'. I was really shocked I didn't know him personally."

As darkness fell, King Albert II and Queen Paola arrived to console the city. The country's prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, also visited.

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