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Will there be a breakthrough in Annie De Poortere’s case thirty years after her disappearance? “Sometimes chance is decisive”


Thirty years after her disappearance, Annie De Poortere’s remains may have been found behind a house in Sint-Martens-Latem. By coincidence, during renovation work. “Nature does its thing, but occasionally chance is decisive for us,” says Alain Remue of the Missing Persons Unit.

The remains were found in Sint-Martens-Latem. There are indications that it concerns a woman, Annie De Poortere, who disappeared in 1994. At the time of the disappearance she was 48 years old. The investigating judge was requisitioned, the investigation is being conducted intensively into all possible avenues. In the meantime, the woman’s relatives and family have been informed. Remarkable: there was no search for the woman, the remains were discovered by chance during excavation work for a renovation.

And coincidence, according to Alain Remue, is very important for some cold cases. “I remember cases where we searched like crazy and found nothing. Until suddenly someone happens to find something,” he says. He refers to the story of Raoul Vanderdonck, a Dutchman who was missing for six years after a walk in the High Fens. “We then searched half of the High Fens. From the air, on the ground. Eventually you start to doubt whether he is there. His car was in the parking lot, but when you search for so long, all hypotheses begin to live a life.

Until years later, a shepherd hit a skull with his sheep and took it to the police. DNA research then appeared to confirm: it was the man we had been looking for for so long.” In addition to a skull, other bones were found, but not everything. “Nature does its thing and cleans itself up, but occasionally chance is decisive for us. Just like now, while working.”

Jürgen Konings

A more recent example is that of the Belgian soldier Jürgen Conings. He disappeared in 2021 and was also found by chance. “We searched everything with hundreds of people. We have also been using geometry for some time, where every dog ​​and man is equipped with a tracer. This way we can see where we have searched and where not. In the Conings case it turned out that the closest sniffer dog had walked 150 meters from Conings’ body. But the wind was wrong.” The soldier was eventually found by chance in the Dilserbos.

“Sometimes that can lead to frustration. But coincidental or not, a find is important anyway. Because this means that new steps can be taken in research. The medical examiner can make the remains speak, he can determine what happened and whether anything can still be seen on the corpse,” says Remue. Another reason why such a coincidental find is important is for the relatives. “When a disappearance occurs you get a lot of ideas. Was that person murdered or moved to an island before? An answer is therefore essential.”

DNA research will now be used to determine whether it is indeed Annie De Poortere. At the time it was suggested that the woman might have moved to Spain, but the public prosecutor’s office cannot confirm that. “We will look at the relationship for that DNA test. A formal identification is therefore possible, even though ‘DNA’ was only a magic word at the time of the disappearance,” says Remue.

Remue emphasizes that new technology can make a difference in decades-old cold cases. “If someone used to fall into the water, you had to wait for that person to surface. And then sometimes you didn’t even know if that would happen. Now we can search specifically with sonar.” But coincidence cannot be underestimated either. “It would be nice if by chance we found something tomorrow that could lead us to Nathalie Geijsbregts or Ken Heyrman. Our slogan is always: never say never. And that has now become clear.”

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