“There were still traces of blood”: Diliana forced to recover the knife that was used during the attack at the Gare du Midi

Diliana (first name for the sake of anonymity) experienced the knife attack that took place at the Gare du Midi last Tuesday around 9:45 a.m. She is still traumatized by the events that unfolded before her eyes. And for good reason, the 22-year-old young woman worked in the store in which the attacker entered to obtain his knife. Barely a day later, three police officers went to his store to return the weapon, still stained with blood. It is still the voice trembling with emotion that Diliana insisted on giving us her testimony by pressing the orange button.

Diliana (first name for the sake of anonymity), 22, is employed full-time in a store within the Gare du Midi in Brussels. She was present at the scene Tuesday morning during the knife fight which broke out in the middle of rush hour at the stationresulting in a slight injury: I still have the image of this man who was prowling around the store, and of his look, when he returned to take this knife. At the time, we all really wondered if it was our last day of life. The exchange of glances lasted a few seconds, but for us it was an eternity.”

The next day, around 5:30 p.m., the young woman was on duty when three police officers entered the store: They looked worried, a little embarrassed by the situation. I felt something was wrong. They were clearly not there to buy cakes or salads.”

And Diliana’s instinct doesn’t lie, since as soon as she enters, the three police officers hand her a plastic bag: That’s when they told me that the magistrate had ordered them to return the weapon that had been used in the attack. The moment they handed it to us, we all relived the scene. I clearly had a stroke in the heart and a dry throat. The police were talking to me and I was just frozen. I had a blur in my head where I thought back to the day when the facts took place.

Very quickly, the shock gave way to anger: For me, this is unacceptable. There were still traces of blood on the knife. It’s not like I’m going to wash it down and reuse it to make sandwiches for our customers.”

Diliana then decides to call her manager to make the appropriate decision: He was of the exact same opinion as me. It’s inhuman to ask us to accept that. I told them that they made us relive the scene by returning the weapon to us in this way. But we obviously had no choice.”

And the team is not at the end of its surprises: We were forbidden to take back the bag from the laboratory. We therefore had to take the knife, by hand, and place it in a packaging from the store. I made the decision to hide the package in the storeroom so that it wouldn’t be seen. It is true that it is a butcher’s knife, which costs between 70 and 100 euros. But that’s no reason to keep it even after what happened.”

A decision made under the influence of emotion, while waiting for his manager to arrive, to find a solution: When my manager arrived the next morning, he took the knife and threw it outside the station, in a place where the weapon was not likely to be recovered. We didn’t know what to do with it. I don’t understand why it’s up to us to find a solution to get rid of it.”

For the criminal lawyer, Xavier Van Der Smissen, nothing surprising in the procedure: It is common practice to return the weapon that was used in an assault to its original owner. If all the analyzes and samples have been taken, it is useless for the prosecution to keep this kind of element.”

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It is no less difficult to live with. For Diliana, the attack will have changed her daily life forever: “QWhen you work at the Gare du Midi, you see everything and anything. But since this story of the knife, we are all in anguish. I see in the eyes of my colleagues that they are worried. They are all now followed by psychologists. It is not like it used to be. As soon as we meet, we talk about it again. We became more stressed, more suspicious. We have a trauma. When I go to bed at night, I think about it and it runs through my head.”

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