A 20-year-old man was being questioned today after two toddlers and a carer were stabbed to death in a frenzied attack at a nursery.
Ten other children, all under three, and two adults were also attacked and were recovering in hospitals from multiple stab wounds after the rampage in Dendermonde, Belgium, yesterday.
Police are still trying to establish a motive for the attack at the Fabeltjesland creche - which means in English, "the land of fables".
A man who is believed to have painted his face black and white apparently tricked his way into the nursery yesterday morning, then ran amok stabbing children and staff before escaping by bicycle.
Prosecutor Christian Du Four said a local man was arrested afterwards and was being held for questioning.
"He did not escape from a psychiatric institution. He was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs," he said, referring to reported rumours about the suspect.
Mr Du Four said the weapon had been found, describing it as a "large knife" about 12in long.
The deaths left Dendermonde, half an hour north west of Brussels, in shock. Members of the Belgian royal family have gone to the town to visit the scene and speak to emergency workers.
About 18 children, some just babes in arms, were at the creche when, police say, a man knocked on the door and was let in.
He immediately produced knives and lashed out at the children - including those being held by staff at the day-care centre.
"There was blood everywhere and of course there was panic," said Theo Janssens, a senior member of Dendermonde's department of social services who was on the scene within five minutes.
"It was horrible. You can't imagine it. The two who were killed were just babies. One was already dead when I got there and the other was in a very bad way.
"One of the adult staff was also already dead."
Police said the attacker, who was unknown at the creche, muttered: "I have a question," as he was let in the front door and then began lashing out with a knife.
Dendermonde's chief of police, Paul Puttemans, said the attack began when a man arrived at the creche on a bicycle - wearing a bullet-proof vest.
Mr Puttemans said he was believed to be carrying several knives and possibly other weapons.
After the attack, a man was caught while cycling away from the day-care centre.
"There was a small struggle and then this person was detained," said the police chief.
Surgeon Ignace Demeyer, who is hospital co-ordinator for emergencies in the Dendermonde region, said he hoped that the children caught up in the attack were young enough not to be scarred in later life by the memories.
"But they will be physically scarred," he said. "We have 10 children, what I would call toddlers, in hospital being treated for wounds. They will all survive, as well as two adults working at the centre."
Asked how one man had been able to attack so many in just a few moments with a knife, Mr Demeyer replied: "The truth is that stabbing children is very easy, especially when they are very small, and some of these would have been sleeping."
"For those who survived, this was horribly traumatic and they are already being put into post-traumatic stress programmes."Reuse content