In addition, the jury’s verdict said that Claes had “invited” his reaction by her behaviour towards him. Beerlings was also found not guilty of the attempted murder of her boyfriend, Luc Van De Putte, after the judge refused to introduce the option of a lesser verdict of assault.
The verdict surprised everyone, including the defence. At no point in the trial did the defence suggest that Beerlings had any other intention than to kill Claes, nor did they argue that he had acted without premeditation. They did, however, present the case that Claes had provoked Beerlings by her behaviour in the months preceding the shootings, which included letting him believe the relationship was not over, then filing suit for half of his belongings and a restraining order to prevent him from seeing their two sons.
The defence argued that Beerlings had never intended to shoot Van De Putte at all and asked for a charge of serious assault. But the judge refused to alter the indictment, and the jury found Beerlings not guilty. As a result, Beerlings faces no sentence for shooting Van De Putte, and the victim himself will not be eligible for compensation.
On Monday this week, Beerlings was sentenced to two years in prison and fined €1,100. Claes, meanwhile, is paralysed in both legs and one arm as a result of the shooting and is confined to a wheelchair. The public prosecutor told the jury their verdict was “a miscarriage of justice”. Lawyer Jef Vermassen, representing Claes, said: “The decision of the jury is incomprehensible. This is not justice.”