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TBK…The River Hate

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The Path of Worry, part 1…

“Le Chemin de l’Inquietude”, in french – the syllables are liquid if one speaks the language. The rivers Haine (Hate), and Trouille (Fear).

A native speaker of the language would pronounce these names, to an American ear, with as much gallic grace as they might say the names of fine cuisine – Blanquette de veau, Coq au Vin, Crème brûlée, Mille-feuilles.

But in Mons, Belgium, the city where one can find these particular place names, someone with a truly horrific sense of humor has been leaving “presents” for the local gendarmerie (police).

Body parts.

  • April 12, 1997 – on the rue du Dépôt (Dump Street), near The River Hate, two trash bags containing body parts, a head, a foot, part of a leg – all have been cut with great precision, with a hacksaw.
  • The torso of 33-year-old transsexual Martine Bohn, found in The River Hate on July 25th, 1996.
  • August of 1996; the torso of an unidentified woman is found in the town of Piringen, on Doodmanstraat…Dead Man Street.
  • Havré, close to Mons, April 18, 1997 – a site called La Poudriè (The Powdery), workmen find 3 trash bags containg a total of two human thighs and a hand with the forearm attached. The victim is later identified as 21-year-old Nathalie Godart, a homeless woman who frequented the same marginalized areas of Mons as Martine Bohn.
  • A skull found in the Village of Hyon is identified on May 22, 1998, as belonging to Begonia Valencia, who disappeared August 21, 1997. Begonia has a link to victim Martine Bohn – both had been treated in a psychiatric hospital at Chêne-aux-Haies.

By late 1998, at least 5 if not more victims are credited to the serial the Belgian police are unimaginatively calling “The Trash Bag Killer.” Forty trash bags filled with body parts are found throughout Mons and the surrounding region.

Americans, at least, would probably shorten the moniker to a snappy acronym…like, maybe, the TBK.

“The Existence of the Devil…”

In August of 1997, Patrick Moriau, a member of the Parliamentary Commission investigating pedophilic serial killer Marc Dutroux (link goes to the crimelibrary article about Dutroux), receives the postcard you see at the top of this entry.

The words on the postcard are translated thusly: “…To abduct, rape, to kill, cut up, liquidate human pieces female…

Moriau receives two more anonymous postcards, and on August 27 of the same year he receives a copy of the book, 36 preuves de l’existence du diable…or; “36 Proofs For the Existence of the Devil.”

A new disappearance occurs at the same time – 16-year-old Jennifer Deceuninck. She too was treated at the psychiatric hospital in Chêne-aux-Haies.

The River Fear…

A profile of the “Trash Bag Killer” is created with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s BAU, or Behavioral Analysis Unit.

It is determined that the killer is:

  • Organized.
  • Highly mobile – perhaps more significant in Europe than here in the United States, where ownership of a vehicle is considered a fundamental American right. As is the case with serials in the US, it is presumed he may own a van or a station wagon…I assume either will be a dark color, likely dark blue.
  • He is likely single, a loner, with a regular daily job.
  • Moreover the profile determines this man to be educated and in his mid-30s.

The profile goes on to assume the unknown subject lives in or around Mons, and prefers to frequent prostitutes. His control issues will be manifested in his relations with them. He may frequent the Mons railway station, (another non-American serial killer, the remarkably savage Russian, Andrei Chikatilo, [crimelibrary.com link] trolled for nearly all of his victims on the railways and in stations), or have some other way – (the psychiatric hospital?) – of getting to know and ultimately target vulnerable victims. In other words, like most serials, he’s a human predator who has figured out how to cull the weak from the fringes of the herd.

The profile is rendered futile, though. By 1998 it appears the “Trash Bag Killer” has ceased his nasty work.

Dead Man Street…

In February of 2003, body parts sealed in a trash bag were taken out of a riverside “leisure center” in the village of Locquignol, in northern France.

Locally the place is known as La Hachette, or “The Hatchet”.

Then in March of the same year, a woman’s torso, again wrapped in a plastic bag, was retrieved from the River Escaut, near an area known as Vieux-Conde, or “Old Cop”.

At the height of the butchery in Belgium in the mid-90’s a bag of body parts was found floating in the Escaut, on the Belgian side of the river.

The remains found in Locquignol proved to be those of a woman known only as Jeanine S., a 59-year-old who disappeared from the village of Saint-Hilaire-sur-Helpe on February 19 of that year.

A task force the Belgian Authorities formed to catch the TBK, called Corpus, travelled to France to determine if the 2003 murders were linked to the Monster from Mons, and they decided the connections between the cases were strong.

As far as I know, that’s where the case remains. I could not find any recent – 2004/2005 – writings about this series of murders on the web.

The Path of Worry, part 2…

Writing about this unsolved series of murders in another country in the week following the apprehension of the man who may very well be the BTK Strangler (link goes to my true crime blog, The Dark Side, and my BTK archive) from Wichita, Kansas – Dennis L. Rader (Google News Search) – underscores the already apparent, eerie similarities between the Belgian TBK and the American BTK:

  • Some form of communication with authorities.
  • Easy movement around his zone of comfort.
  • Targeting mainly adult women, leaving behind very little, if any, forensic evidence.
  • In the case of the BTK Strangler a long period of seeming quiescence – at one time it was thought he’d ceased killing over 25 years ago – and in TBK’s case, at least 7 years.
  • Both BTK and TBK were highly organized serials, one could even say meticulous. The postcard at the top of this entry is reminiscent of recently revealed BTK communications that took the form of concise lists.

And another trait that I feel they both have exhibited is a trait I alluded to early in this post – a demonic “sense of humor”.

Writings about both killers have referred to them supposedly being “poetic” – The Trash Bag Killer in his choice of dump sites; The River Hate, The River Fear, Dead Man Street – and BTK in actually sending poems to the police and press.

Coming from the viewpoint that I do, which is that no serial killer is capable of anything “poetic”, I tend to look more at these features of both cases as evidence of the killer’s version of humor. With BTK it was in his puzzles, poorly constructed word finds and cryptic collages of letters and numbers – with TBK his choice of place-names that evoke states of mind likely to be associated with the idea of serial murder. Hate. Fear. Death. Anxiety. The Trash Bag Killer is an immensely evil punster. In his mind, he is funny.

I feel the alleged BTK Strangler – Rader – also was playing games and jokes. It was his way of saying to the police in particular that he was far too smart to ever be caught. By reducing his interaction with authorities to a game, he was saying he was the superior intellect, and they were only worth his playing with them.

I feel the Trash Bag Killer was doing the same, in his own way.

I also believe authorities, if still searching for the TBK, should consider closely qualities now known to be part of the BTK Strangler’s personality and his life in general. It is becoming more clear each day that BTK was meticulous, to the point of being obsessive-compulsive. Neatness, control, order, were paramount to him. It is also becoming clear that was a masterful actor, a true chameleon. A man beloved by one and all in his church family, considered a petty bureaucrat by many neighbors, a doting father, and to a select number of people, a true monster in human form.

If the butcher who precisely dismembered the bodies of those Belgian and French women before dumping them in anal-retentively wrapped packages in the river is still alive, I have to wonder…wonder if he is single, a loner, after all. I, for one, even when correct about BTK’s physical appearance and some of his personal qualities, was dead wrong about BTK also being a loner, a strange little man with no family, maybe overly attached to his mama.

In the countryside around Mons, there may live at this moment a man in his 40’s or early 50’s, who has one great private amusement. When he heads to the church on the town square for mass, when he walks a country lane, he reminisces about his secrets. When he plays with his children or makes love to his wife, he remembers fear, and blood, and the steady, raw rhythm of hacksaw cutting bone. Maybe he, like his more squeamish American counterpart, (I think it’s safe to say BTK preferred strangling, even if he stabbed some victims – more than one profiler has noticed this about the Strangler – he wasn’t in it for the blood and gore, but the death itself), goes to work every day in some town government job. He keeps records. He fills databases with useless information. He stamps things. He is a teetotaler, and maybe even a moralizer. Maybe the Trash Bag Killer has passed out the eucharist during Sunday services, and confessed to his priest…up to a point.

Then again, maybe fate was just and he did meet an end of some sort. The Belgian Authorities don’t seem to know yet, and their track record isn’t good. They missed evidence of Marc Dutroux’s (see link above) rampage of murder and rape for so long a Government inquiry was done to determine how best to improve their policing and investigation. The gnomish little protestant Pastor, Andras Pandy (crimelibrary.com link), managed to methodically murder most of his family, several strangers, and repeatedly rape his daughter for years before capture.

An acquaintance, by the way, describes Pandy as having had a little “smirk” on his face much of the time. I imagined BTK doing the exact same thing before his apparent capture, and for all I know we may still find out that people noticed this about Dennis Rader, as well.

I suspect that in the countryside around Mons, or on the outskirts of the city, or working at the psychiatric hospital in Chêne-aux-Haies, there is another bland-looking little man who smirks. He smirks, and at the railway station he may still hunt. He’s just figured out a better way to keep his pieces of people to himself.

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  • RJ

    Very well-written piece. I tend to view “profilers” with some disdain, however.

    They were wrong about the Beltway Sniper. They were wrong about BTK. They are, in fact, USUALLY wrong.

    It appears they get credit in the media on those relatively rare occasions when they are actually somewhat right. Well, even a stopped-clock is right twice a day…

  • Thanks, very much, RJ. I actually am pretty much with you on the profiling – particularly because certain exponents of behavioral analysis who are all over the news as talking heads have so little in the way of real credentials.

    I just posted an entry here on the amateur “profile” I pulled out of my ass last December that ended up scoring as many hits accuracy-wise as most of the “professional” profiles I read.

    If an opera singer blogging in his pajamas can be correct on some key details about the suspect, what does that say about the field?

    One fears that the term “glorified guesswork” might be appropriate.