Dying woman's text message 'named killer'

In the last few minutes of her life, an 18-year-old woman who had been savagely bludgeoned with a baseball bat managed to type a text message naming her stepmother as her killer, according to Belgian police investigating the latest gruesome crime to shock the country.

In the last few minutes of her life, an 18-year-old woman who had been savagely bludgeoned with a baseball bat managed to type a text message naming her stepmother as her killer, according to Belgian police investigating the latest gruesome crime to shock the country.

The message, "Help daddy. Maura is killing me", is believed to have been sent by a barely conscious Stephanie De Mulder as she was bleeding to death in the boot of Maura Van Lommel's car. The body of Ms De Mulder, a university student from Battel near Brussels, was discovered by police divers in the port of Antwerp last Saturday.

According to police, the 44-year-old stepmother had been on holiday in the Netherlands with Ms De Mulder's father, Gilbert De Mulder, for the first two weeks of August.

Last Wednesday evening, Ms Van Lommel returned to the home at Battel she had shared for five years with Mr De Mulder and Ms De Mulder.

Mr De Mulder stayed on in the Netherlands but Ms Van Lommel was to return to work before him. Stephanie was due to start her holiday last Thursday and had packed a travel bag ahead of leaving with friends for a holiday in Spain.

With Andy Hermans, her 23-year-old son, Ms Van Lommel planned what she thought would be the perfect crime, police said. The pair allegedly went upstairs to the room where Ms De Mulder was asleep and began beating her with baseball bats.

Under the blows, she woke up and tried to escape. But as she was running from her room, she tripped and fell down the stairs. Thinking her dead, Ms Van Lommel and Mr Hermans loaded the body into the boot of their car and drove towards Antwerp where they threw it into the river.

Police believe the blows inflicted to Ms De Mulder's head and jaw prevented her speaking on the phone but that she managed to type the text message to him from the boot of the car.

On Thursday, Ms De Mulder's sister, Patricia, alerted by her father, went to the house in Battel. She found the young woman's room pristine and Ms Van Lommel said she knew nothing about the woman's disappearance or the text message.

Gilbert De Mulder then alerted the police, who searched the house and found signs of a struggle. Mr Hermans confessed and, on Saturday afternoon, Ms Van Lommel herself showed police divers where the body had been dumped.

Belgian police say they are not aware of Ms Van Lommel's motive but they understand that the stepmother and her son - who have been charged with murder - considered Ms De Mulder's presence in the house to be a source of conflict.

The killing is the latest gruesome crime to make headlines in Belgium, where police are investigating a murderous 14-year spree by the suspected serial killer Michel Fourniret and his wife, Monique Olivier.

In June, when the child sex killer Marc Dutroux was sentenced to life imprisonment after a trial which heard from nearly 900 witnesses, Belgian police said they would never get to the bottom of all his crimes.

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