Belgium 'Joker' snubs lawyer at nursery murders' trial

A lawyer for a young Belgian who disguised himself as Batman foe "The Joker" before going on a killing spree at a nursery four years ago said Friday he was mentally ill and not responsible and should be committed.

Kim De Gelder, now aged 24 and facing four counts of murder and 25 of attempted murder after going on the rampage, was a paranoid schizophrenic who "is irresponsible and cannot be punished," his defence lawyer Jaak Haentjens told a court.

But asked to comment by the judge presiding the assize court in Ghent, De Gelder refused, saying "I didn't hear or listen, so I don't know."

The court earlier during two hours heard the formal charge-sheet against De Gelder, charged with killing two infants and their 54-year-old minder in an attack on the "Fable Land" day care centre in the town of Dendermonde in 2009.

He was also accused of murdering an elderly woman in a separate attack a week earlier, and charged for attempted murder on 22 people, including 16 babies and toddlers at the creche.

The jury of eight men and four women were told by the prosecution that after initial disagreements, psychiatric experts had deemed the accused could stand trial as he was "able to distinguish between good and evil" when the killings took place.

The then unemployed 20-year-old, son of a nurse and of an inspector at the state water board, planned the shocking rampage at length, the prosecution said.

At dawn on January 23 he dyed his hair red and painted his face white with black around his eyes like "The Joker" in the Batman movie "Dark Knight".

Last year, US youth James Holmes was accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 in a cinema screening the sequel of the film.

Once disguised, De Gelder filled a bag with knives and an axe and cycled to the nursery in mid-morning where he said to 54-year-old minder Marita Blindeman: "I have a question, can you help?"

"Without warning," says the charge-sheet, "the young man began to knife her." She did not survive.

In the nursery he then went for six-month-old Corneel and nine-month Leon. And then, in a bloody rampage that lasted a quarter-hour, attacked the remaining children and adults before making off on his bike.

Police said he had planned to attack two more nurseries, a police academy, and even the king. But he was picked up an hour later by an officer.

The young man will be interrogated Monday. The trial is scheduled to last until March 22.

The main thrust of the hearings will be to determine whether he can be judged responsible for his actions.

His lawyer has said he suffered from "psychological problems" as a teenager and heard "voices in his head."

His parents had asked to have him committed when he was 18 but his psychiatrist had turned down the request.

The parents however lost a case against the psychiatrist.

Thousands of people turned out at the time for a march to pay tribute to the victims of the attack.