A 46-year-old Belgian man was accused of “attempted terrorist attack” and then detained in possession of firearms near the theater where the Miss Belgium pageant was held in La Panne (north-west) on Sunday, the day after his arrest , announced this federal prosecutor.
“We probably avoided an attack,” said a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office on Saturday evening.
When he was arrested near the scene of the incident on Saturday at around 5:30 p.m., the suspect “Peter C.” according to a press release from the federal prosecutor’s office, owned a handgun.
And another firearm was found in his car by police, as was a bulletproof vest, the same source added.
The suspect was accompanied by a woman of Dutch nationality. She was also arrested and, like him, brought before the investigating judge responsible for the investigation in Bruges (north-west) on Sunday.
“We do not know at the moment whether she was aware of her plans,” said the federal prosecutor’s office, emphasizing that Peter C.’s motives, which the police and secret services were not aware of, were “unclear”.
The coroner decided to remand him after being charged with “attempted terrorist attack”.
According to Flemish public broadcaster VRT, this Dutch-speaking Belgian from Lommel (north-east) recently experienced a breakup and is “struggling with mental health issues”. He had hired a car and bought two tickets to the Miss Belgium party, one for himself, one for the Dutch lady who was accompanying him, probably his new girlfriend.
A member of his close circle, to whom he had entrusted this eviction project, alerted the police, which led to his arrest, several Flemish media reported.
His lawyer rejected the allegations on Sunday. “There is nothing to suggest that my client had the slightest intention of committing a crime, let alone a terrorist attack,” said Mr Walter Van Steenbrugge, quoted by the Belga agency.
He assured that Peter C. had valid gun baggage and that he was taking these guns to La Panne “for his own safety”.
Despite the incident, the Miss Belgium election was able to take place on Saturday evening with a delay of around an hour after a thorough inspection of the hall and behind the scenes by the police.