A nursery killer disguised as Batman villain “The Joker” told a court on Monday he panicked and was left with “no choice” but to stab to death two toddlers and their minder at a Belgian creche.
“I had planned to kill as many people as possible, but once I got into the creche I changed my mind and recognized it was not a good thing,” Kim de Gelder told the court.
“But people got in my way and I panicked,” De Gelder said.
“And the baby in its play area that you stabbed, this baby was also in your way?” the presiding judge asked, noting how witnesses had described De Gelder as being very calm during the attack.
“Do you know what panic is like?” De Gelder shot back. “Perhaps in the same situation, you would have done the same.”
Earlier, De Gelder told the court he was “aware that you should not [kill], but I did not see any other choice.”
“I was pushed toward this choice, perhaps from outside. It came directly,” he said during questioning which lasted about five hours.
De Gelder, now 24, is charged with killing the two infants aged six and nine months and their 54-year-old carer in an attack on the Fable Land nursery in the town of Dendermonde in January 2009, as well as the attempted murder of 22 others at the creche — including 16 babies and toddlers.
De Gelder is further charged with murdering an elderly woman in a separate attack a week earlier.
The court must decide whether De Gelder can be considered sane or not. On Friday, his lawyer told the 12 jurors his client was a paranoid schizophrenic, who “is irresponsible and cannot be punished.”
Just after the release of the cult 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight, De Gelder entered the nursery with his hair dyed red and his face painted white with black around his eyes — like the film’s villain, played by the late Australian actor Heath Ledger.
De Gelder told the court on Monday he would “keep the explanation of his motives for the end of the trial, or for another trial.”
He said he had a happy childhood, but relations with his parents became difficult when he was about 15 as they opposed his plans to study psychology or law.
At age 18, De Gelder said he thought of committing suicide by lying under a train, but then changed his plans to “taking the lives of other people.”
Saying he was in despair, he said he had lied to psychiatrists, telling them during the investigation that he had heard “voices” pushing him to act.
“You had other choices, you could have looked for a job,” the presiding judge interjected.
“I already told you it was the crisis,” De Gelder replied.
“Why did you search out people unknown to you?” he was asked.
“The people you know, the people you like — you do not kill them,” De Gelder replied.
Police said De Gelder planned to attack two more nurseries, a police academy and also Belgium’s king — but he was picked up by officers within an hour of the nursery rampage.