Gangster suicide

(First Edition)

Belgium's most notorious gangster, Patrick Haemers, hanged himself in prison yesterday after barricading his cell door and demanding drugs, Reuter reports from Brussels.

The suicide of Haemers, dubbed the 'Big Blond' by a sometimes adoring media, ends a tale of car chases, hold-ups and prison escapes in a further embarrassment for Belgium's shaky criminal justice system.

It also put more pressure on the Justice Minister, Melchior Wathelet, to resign after a series of judicial blunders and prison escapes. Haemers, 40, pulled off his most famous crime in 1989, kidnapping the former Belgian prime minister and elder statesman Paul Vanden Boeynants. Police eventually caught up with him and he was extradited to Belgium in 1989. Haemers's trial in April turned into farce when the courts were unable to find enough jurors.