Virologist threatened by fugitive Belgian soldier sends sympathy to his bereaved family

Jurgen Conings was found dead in a national park after a four-week manhunt

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The virologist threatened by a fugitive Belgian soldier has expressed his sympathy for the family of the extremist, whose body was found following a four-week manhunt.

"For them this is very sad news, because they lose a father, a relative or a friend," Dr Marc Van Ranst, a prominent Covid-19 expert in Belgium, said on Twitter.

Jurgen Conings, who held anti-vaccine views and was on a terrorism watch list, went missing from his home on May 17 with a cache of weapons taken from a military base, including anti-tank rockets, after leaving notes that threatened Dr Van Ranst and others.

Dr Van Ranst was taken to a safe house during the hunt from where he continued to post messages on social media. At one stage he joined an extremist chatroom to monitor reaction to the saga.

He told De Morgen newspaper it was especially a relief for his son that the body of Conings had been found.

“It’s a double feeling,” Dr Van Ranst said. “A person like that I have little sympathy for. But that person also has family and children. That’s who my thoughts go out to.

“How am I doing in the safe house? I’ve been here for a little over a month now. Anyway, I hope to return to normal life soon.”

The virologist told Belgian media on Monday that he had returned home.

Conings was found on Sunday at a national park where hundreds of soldiers were searching. Early indications were that he died by suicide, officials said.

Questions are circulating about how he had access to weapons before he went missing.

Conings' body was reportedly discovered by cyclists and a local hunter who noticed a smell of decay. The body was found surrounded by weapons.

Results from a postmortem examination are expected on Monday.