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Fugitive soldier Jürgen Conings found dead after one-month manhunt
The body of radical extreme-right Belgian soldier Jürgen Conings has been found in the woods in the Limburg municipality of Dilsen-Stockem, after a manhunt that lasted more than a month.
Federal authorities have confirmed the identification of the body as being Conings, who disappeared on 17 May. They also stated that suicide is, without doubt, the cause of death. However, the cause of death has not yet been officially announced.
The body was found on Sunday morning after Johan Tollenaere, the mayor of neighbouring Maaseik, smelled a corpse odour while out mountain-biking. "I immediately thought of Jürgen Conings and notified the police,” he said. “They found the body. I did not go to the body myself."
A hunter told the Belga news agency that he had also noticed a strong smell. Just before noon, the man returned to see if there was a shot wild boar somewhere, but found the body near a tree.
The bearded man was wearing black clothes. According to the hunter, there was also a riot gun, a 5.7 handgun, an axe, a pocket knife and ammunition.
Jürgen Conings left his barracks on 17 May with an arsenal of heavy weapons and had been missing since then. In letters, Conings had made threats to politicians, virologists and the military.
On the day of the disappearance, he watched the house of virologist Marc Van Ranst for hours. Van Ranst and his family then spent weeks in a safe house. Conings was the only soldier on the list of Ocam, the body that analyses the terrorist threat in Belgium.
Van Ranst said on Twitter on Sunday: "My thoughts go out to the relatives and children of Jürgen Conings. For them, this is very sad news, because they are losing a father, a relative or a friend."
Limburg governor Jos Lantmeeters informed the Belga news agency that the location where the body was found was not within the zone where there was a massive search in the first week after the disappearance.
The scene of death was about 3km from where his backpack had been found only a week and a half ago, while hundreds of soldiers and agents had already thoroughly combed the area.
"It was a search in very difficult circumstances", says justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne. "One had to proceed very carefully, given the threat posed by the person in question."
"The search can now stop," Van Quickenborne added. "That does not mean that the judicial investigation is now over. We want to find out exactly what happened and we also want to find out if there are other people involved.”
An aunt of Jürgen Conings is angry that she has not yet seen the corpse. “We want to see the body, but we can’t see it,” she said. “We ask if we
can go, but we are not allowed. We have already engaged a lawyer: we want to see the body officially.”
In criminal cases, the body is not released to the family until the forensic officer has officially identified the corpse and determined a cause of death.