Monday 19 February 2018

Families wait in agony for news of missing loved ones

UK citizen called home, then may have caught doomed train

Sebastien Bellin suffered leg injuries. Photo: Reuters
Sebastien Bellin suffered leg injuries. Photo: Reuters
US citizen Sascha Pinczowski is feared dead. Photo: Facebook
David Dixon. Photo: PA
Leopold Hecht died in the metro bombing. Photo: Twitter

Patrick Sawer, David Chazan and Camilla Turner in Brussels

A British father, missing since the attacks, told his family he was safe following the airport bombs, only to then board the doomed metro train, relations believe.

David Dixon, an IT consultant who lives in Brussels, sent a text message to his aunt assuring her he was "fine and safe" in the minutes after the airport attack. But his family has not heard from him since. Charlotte Sutcliffe, Mr Dixon's partner, with whom he has a seven-year-old son, Henry, is enduring an agonising wait for news.

Forensics officers have obtained Mr Dixon's dental records to see if they match any of the bodies recovered from the scene of Tuesday's bombing, in which 20 people were killed and 130 injured.

Ms Sutcliffe said: "It's been a very difficult time for me and for everyone who knows David … not knowing anything and not hearing anything. All we can do now is wait. The police have all of David's details. We've not heard anything back from them and it's just a case of waiting. We're in their hands now."

Mr Dixon and Ms Sutcliffe moved to Brussels over 10 years ago, where he first got a job with British Airways and then moved to Toyota.

His aunt, Ann Dixon, said: "As soon as I heard on the news about the explosion at the airport I thought of David and I texted him to ask whether he was all right. It was a relief when he texted back and said he was safe and fine.

"He travelled into Brussels on the metro every day and after we'd texted he must have gone straight out and got on the metro that was attacked."

Mr Dixon (51) from Hartlepool, had left his apartment block in a smart southern suburb as normal.

Just a few minutes after receiving his aunt's text, he is thought to have boarded the train on which the bomb was detonated as it passed through Maelbeek station, one stop from the European Commission and EU Council buildings.

Ms Dixon said she received a call later that morning from her brother-in-law telling her of the metro bombing and that nobody had been able to get in touch with her nephew.

"Our hope is that he's injured and has been taken to hospital and that he's going to be okay," she said.

As with all the recent terror strikes against European cities, the victims of the Brussels attacks were of all ages, creeds and races.

Leopold Hecht (20), a law student at the Universite Saint-Louis in the Belgian capital, died of his injuries from the metro bomb.

His brother had used Twitter to appeal for information about his whereabouts. He later confirmed Leopold had been found among the dead.

Yesterday, the university paid tribute to Mr Hecht, saying: "There are no words to describe our dismay at the news. All our thoughts are with his family and relatives."

Fellow student Thibault Claes-Ingeveld said: "How sad, it chills my blood. How is this possible in our time to be killed on the way to the university or work?"

A second Belgian man, Olivier Delespesse was also named as having been killed in the attack on Maelbeek.

Mr Delespesse worked for a government organisation representing French speakers in Wallonia and the Brussels region. The education ministry expressed shock at the "unjust" death of a man described as a "human treasure".

There are dozens of wounded spread across several hospitals in Brussels, several in a critical condition, and many of the dead have yet to be identified.

Social networks are flooded with pleas for information as people wait by their phones, hoping for a call that will bring good news, dreading to see the names of relations or friends added to the list of fatalities.

Friends of Sabrina Esmael Fazal (25), who has not been heard from since the attacks, were desperate for news.

Ms Fazal was travelling by metro from her home in Wavre, in the province of Walloon Brabant, for her studies at the Haute Ecole Galilee in Brussels at around the time of the blast.

Vincent Efomi, a friend, said: "She would have been passing through the station around the time of the attacks and everyone is sick with worry."

Also feared dead is 60-year-old Catherine De Lylle, from Savoie, France, whose children have not heard from her since she set off to visit a friend in Brussels.

Fabienne Vansteenkiste, an airport worker from the Belgian city of Namur, was also reported missing.

Friends of Yves Cibuabua said he was in all likelihood caught up in the Maelbeek bombing.

At Erasmus Hospital, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium, accompanied by the prime minister Charles Michel comforted several of those hurt. Sixteen people were admitted to the hospital. One died on Tuesday night and two others are still in critical condition.

Three European Commission (EC) officials were hospitalised in the Maelbeek attack. Others were slightly injured. The EC has accounted for the safety of 252 staff who were out of the office on business. Work continues to confirm the whereabouts of those away on holiday. A former Belgian basketball player, Sebastian Bellin, suffered severe leg injuries. He has been operated on, but still has shrapnel in his leg.

His father, Jean Bellin, who has since spoken to him, told CNN: "The first words out of his mouth were: 'You wouldn't believe the carnage I saw around.'"

He added: "All I know is that the force of the blast where he was was sufficient to throw him 6ft up in to the air and he landed back and he got shrapnel in his left leg and his right hip." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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