Police Pessimistic on Vanden Boeynants
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ It appears more likely that former Prime Minister Paul Vanden Boeynants, who vanished from his home a week ago, may be dead, a police official said Friday.
Chief investigator Andre Vandoren told reporters that neither he nor the family of Vanden Boeynants has heard anything more from a group called the Revolutionary Socialist Brigade, which claimed to hold the 69-year-old politician.
The group said in a letter to two newspapers Tuesday it was holding Vanden Boeynants for $770,000 ransom. He disappeared Jan. 14.
″I must conclude that we have no proof that a movement or people that have made themselves known have indeed kidnapped Mr. Vanden Boeynants,″ Vandoren said.
When pressed by reporters to say whether he believed Vanden Boeynants had been killed, Vandoren said ″murder was among the possibilities from the start, but I must say it is now gaining ground.″
On Thursday, officials ruled out the possibility Vanden Boeynants, 69, had staged his own disappearance.
The Christian Democrat received a three-year suspended jail sentence for tax evasion and fraud in 1986 as the head of a meat packing business.
He is under investigation for corruption when he was defense minister in the 1970s.
Vanden Boeynants disappeared after parking his car in a garage near his apartment complex in Brussels. In the garage, police found his pipe, a shoe and a hearing aid along with a syringe cap, leading to speculation he may have been sedated.
In addition to the Revolutionary Socialist Brigade, the extreme left-wing Communist Combat Cells claimed responsibility for Vanden Boeynants’ disappearance.
In 1984 and 1985, the group staged a bombing campaign against business and NATO targets throughout Belgium. In October, four of its members received life sentences in connection with those attacks.
Vanden Boeynants was prime minister from 1966 to 1968, and again from late 1987 to early 1979. He served as defense minister for seven years in the 1970s.
He was also a Brussels alderman for more than 30 years beginning in 1952, during which time he oversaw a drastic urban renewal program that made him the bane of urban conservationists.
The brigade’s letter demanded that two-thirds of the ransom be donated to the poor by several relief groups. The ransom was to be provided by Vanden Boeynants’ political and business associates.