Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 31 May 2020

'Devil's couple' extradited to Belgium for murder of British businessman

Convicted murderers Hilde Van Acker and Jean-Claude Lacote have been on the run for 23 years

Two of Europe's most wanted murderers have been extradited to Belgium.
Two of Europe's most wanted murderers have been extradited to Belgium.

A Frenchman who worked on a police reality television show while on the run for murdering a British businessman 23 years ago has been extradited to Belgium.

Jean-Claude LaCote, 53, and his wife Hilde Van Acker, 56, were both jailed for life in their absence for the killing of businessman Marcus Mitchell who was shot twice in the head in Belgium in 1996.

Mr Mitchell, a married father of three, had been conned into putting up money for an apparently legitimate business deal to buy aviation parts, one of a number of scams that LaCote was involved with.

The pair, now divorced, were arrested by the authorities in Ivory Coast last November.

On Tuesday the authorities extradited the couple, who are nicknamed the 'devil's couple', to an airport in Belgium where they were taken into custody.

The pair fled Europe in the aftermath of the 1996 killing and 20 years later were put on a most wanted list of criminals run by Europol, the EU policing agency.

Their arrests came after more than a decade of very few sightings since LaCote walked out of a South African jail in 2008 before he was due to stand trial for an unrelated fraud.

While he was on the run LaCote, a TV producer, worked on South African reality police show Duty Calls, which ran for 10 programmes, and demonstrated how officers “dealt with violent criminals and dangerous crime scenes”.

A British court heard that, in 2003, he masterminded a crime to con £1m from an Irish airline and shipping entrepreneur, which was laundered through gold bullion, works of art and a new Ferrari.

He landed up in prison for that fraud but managed to escape when his then girlfriend, Ms Acker, along with accomplices, posed as a police officer with fake paperwork in 2008 to secure his release. It took South African authorities a week to realise that LaCote had gone.

Last year Acker asked to be transferred to Belgium following her arrest because she said her state of health was not good, as she reportedly suffers from cancer, according to De Morgen.

Updated: February 19, 2020 08:40 PM

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