Wesphael is sticking to his story: says his spouse wanted to die

  • Bernard Wesphael, who was charged in Bruges for the murder of his wife, denies he ever struck her.
  • He will appear this Tuesday in chambers.

Over the weekend, two days prior his appearance in chambers in Bruges on Tuesday, Bernard Wesphael entrenched himself in his position. His lawyer Steven Henderickx states that during his visit with him in prison on Sunday, the Walloon deputy insisted that his 42-year-old wife Véronique Pirotton committed suicide by ingesting massive doses of medications. 

1. The facts. Wesphael, 55 years old, met with his wife on Wednesday at the Mondo hotel, a fashionable art deco establishment on rue Spilliaert in the center of Ostend. The couple had lunch in a restaurant on Thursday. He then went for a walk on the levee before returning to the hotel and having a drink at the bar. Afterwards, they returned to their room on the 6th floor. 

2. The first version. Wesphael called the front desk around 9 p.m. exclaiming:  “My wife committed suicide!” Rescue services performed resuscitation procedures for one-half hour in vain on Véronique Pirotton, who was no longer displaying any vital signs. Bernard Wesphael told police that he had attempted resuscitation himself for ten minutes prior to calling.  He explained that after having returned to the hotel, he decided to take a nap. His wife told him that she was going to take a bath. An hour later, he woke up and discovered Véronique Pirotton’s dead body in the bathroom, stretched out next to the bathtub.  “She had been depressed.  She was taking medication.  She probably took a large dose,” he asserted. 

3. Contradictions. The police never found any medication containers in the room or in the bathroom. A prosecution-appointed coroner observed signs of a struggle, including indications of strangulation. He doubts that a large dose of medication could have had lethal effects within one hour. Bernard Wesphael’s timeline is confused.  He estimates the time of his nap to be around 8:00 pm. He disputes statements by his neighbors who heard a heated argument. He explained that suicide was without doubt the cause of death, although she could have died from a different medical issue. 

4. The charges. Friday morning, Wesphael maintained his version of the facts when he appeared before examining judge Christine Pottiez. He indicated that his depressive wife had attempted suicide “five or six times” over the past few months. They were married in Tuscany a year ago, but their marriage was rocky. “Compelling evidence of guilt” revealed at the hearing and the coroner’s initial observations led the examining judge to charge him with murder or homicide committed with intent to kill and issued a warrant for his arrest. He is now incarcerated in the Bruges prison. 

5. A “little argument”. The autopsy released at 3 p.m. on Saturday stated that Véronique Pirotton had died of “violent causes.” Suicide was excluded. Wesphael finally admitted that they had a “little argument” but that no blows were ever exchanged. According to him, the argument started after Véronique Pirotton received a phone call from someone she knew. 

6. Parliamentary immunity. The Ghent prosecutor general advised the minister of justice, Annemie Turtelboom, who then informed Patrick Duprieux, the Ecolo Walloon parliament president, of Bernard Wesphael’s arrest. Since this was a flagrant offense, article 59 of the constitution regarding parliamentary immunity does not apply. This is a first in Belgian parliamentary (and judicial) history. 

7. Toxicology report. On Tuesday, the Bruges chambers will learn about the toxicological assessment. It will either confirm or rule out the ingestion of medications. The autopsy report cannot be appealed: Véronique Pirotton died of violence that could only have been inflicted by Bernard Wesphael.  

He will have to choose whether he wants to have his trial in French. The case would then have to be transferred to a French-speaking jurisdiction.


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