Prosecutors had previously said a body found in eastern Belgium of a man who appeared to have committed suicide with a gun was likely Conings “according to early evidence”.
Hundreds of security forces roamed parts of northeastern Belgium after the May 17 disappearance of Conings, who was on a terrorist watch list, threatened several people and accumulated heavy weapons.
Conings had hidden anti-tank missile launchers and other heavy weapons in an army barracks before disappearing. The 46-year-old had a three-decade career as a sniper before he started making racist threats and remarks on Facebook. He was disciplined but still allowed to work with weapons.
The body was found by people walking in the woods near the town of Dilsen-Stockem.
“During my mountain bike tour this morning, in a part where few people come, I smelled a strong smell of corpse,” Johan Tollenaere from the eastern town of Maaseik told VRT. “I immediately thought of Jurgen Conings and notified the police. They found the body, ”he said.
The manhunt has dominated newspaper headlines nationwide, with some calling Conings “Belgian Rambo” after the 1980s action flick starring Sylvester Stallone.
Among those threatened by Conings is Marc Van Ranst, a leading virologist who has become the target of conspiracy theorists, COVID skeptics and the Flemish far-right in Belgium during the coronavirus crisis.
With Conings still at large, Van Ranst and his family were transferred to an undisclosed location.
“My thoughts are with the loved ones and the children of Jurgen Conings. For them it is very sad news because they lose a father, a relative or a friend, ”tweeted Van Ranst.
The case was embarrassing for the government as it was later revealed that Conings was on a watch list for his far-right views and had access to weapons.
It also drew support online, with Facebook shutting down a support page for Conings, which had amassed 45,000 members in just days.
Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder denounced online support for the fugitive – notably condemning support coming from within the Belgian armed forces.