A Belgian mercenary is one of the authors of one of the most mysterious political crimes of the 20th century: RAF veteran and former Sabena pilot Jan Van Risseghem was at the helm of the Fouga Magister jet that shot down the plane in which Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, was travelling during the night of 17 to 18 September 1961, reported Belgian newspaper De Morgen on Sunday.
Sweden’s Dag Hammarskjöld is the second Secretary-General of United Nations history. He died on September 18, 1961, when his DC-6 crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. Fifteen people on board died immediately, and the only survivor in hospital a few days later. The UN boss was then on his way to negotiate a ceasefire for the province of Katanga in the Congo, a region rich in minerals. Belgian mercenaries were hired as pilots for the Fouga Magister jets of Avikat, the Air Force of Katanga, which wanted to secede from Congo.
The exact circumstances of the accident have never been elucidated. Two investigations concluded that there was a pilot error. But in 2017, a new report deemed “plausible” the assumption of a deliberate attack.
According to De Morgen, a documentary to be released at the end of this month by Danish journalist Mads Brügger highlights a new testimony. Pierre Coppens, a former paratrooper who currently lives in Spain, claims to have received the confidences of Jan Van Risseghem.
“I know that Jan Van Risseghem shot down the plane because he told me about it himself,” reports Pierre Coppens.
Jan Van Risseghem died in 2007. In Belgium, the two men met, a few years after the death of Dag Hammarskjöld. From April to June 1965, Pierre Coppens participated in an internship at the Moorsele airport, near Kortrijk, where Jan Van Risseghem was a pilot.