The Tragic Story Of The Murder Of Jeanne Van Calck

On a winter night in 1906, a shocking crime rocked Brussels — 8-year-old Jeanne Van Calck's murdered and dismembered body was found in a package on the Rue des Hirondelles.

Van Calck was last seen in the evening when she was out for a walk to her mother's house. According to the Ominous Origins podcast, her father was a typographer at Le Soir newspaper in Brussels, but he had abandoned the family. Van Calck lived with her grandparents but visited her mother every evening. Usually, her grandfather accompanied her, but the night of the murder, February 7, he was working, so Van Calck was allowed to go alone.

Around 11:45 p.m. that night, Joseph Eylenbosch, a machinist for the Théâtre de l'Alhambra, found a strange package outside 22 Rue des Hirondelles, wrapped in thick paper and tied with hemp cord. He notified the police, and officers Gustave Vandamme and Pierre Noël took the package to a nearby police station at Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains.

When the police opened the package, they initially saw a blue coat and checkered dress. They then discovered Van Calck's corpse, but the legs were missing. Not long afterward, two men arrived at the police station to report Van Calck missing. The police realized that her description fit that of the girl in the package.

The Investigation

According to the Ominous Origins podcast, the coroner who examined the body determined that Jeanne Van Calck died by choking on her own vomit after being forced to drink a lot of alcohol. She had also suffered violent abuse before her death, which occurred between 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. The coroner believed that the murder had been committed by someone with professional knowledge of how to carry out an amputation, like a doctor or a butcher.

The police searched for the girl's legs, including by dragging local canals. On February 16, a gardener at the former royal park of Stuyvenberg found two wrapped packages, each about 16 inches long. These were Van Calck's legs. Her boots had been found nearby the day before. Continuing the search for the killer, the police gave one of their dogs Van Calck's scent and sent her out looking. The dog stopped at 22 Rue des Hirondelles and outside Van Calck's grandparents' home, where she also barked for a long time. This didn't turn up any leads, nor did the reward of 20,000 Belgian francs offered by the government for information about the killer.

The Aftermath

Jeanne Van Calck was buried in the Brussels Cemetery on February 11, and more than 10,000 people attended her funeral (via Ominous Origins podcast). The burgermeister (or mayor) of Brussels, Émile De Mot, went to collect her body at the St. Pierre Hospital morgue and then accompanied it to the cemetery. Police guarded Van Calck's coffin, and the owner of Le Soir took up a collection to buy her a marble monument.

Several people were arrested in relation to the case, including a Spanish man and an Algerian man. A butcher's apprentice, Jean Many, was arrested as well but released without charges. A Dr. Nyssens was questioned about the case, but nothing came of it. Although a friend of Van Calck's claimed to have seen her with a strange man around 7 p.m. the night of the murder, this lead was dismissed because the witness was a child. That was far from the only blunder in the case. A Parisian lawyer who examined the case identified 29 different mistakes by Brussels Police and published his findings in 1909. More than 100 years later, the case remains mysterious and tragic.