The Mechelen Hundred

Portraits of a city's people, today

Nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen has often been overshadowed by its larger neighbours. Yet teaming up with the City of Mechelen, our line-up of 100 of the city’s most prominent people, places and projects proves the extent of its potential. From artists and creatives to critical thinkers and fighters, these are the powerhouses driving Mechelen forward one step at a time.

Karen Casier

Karen Casier

Coordinator at the Family Justice Center (1976)

Can you describe what you do?

Last year, the city of Mechelen established the Family Justice Centre (FJC), a centre of expertise which works together different partners to tackle cases of domestic violence. Police, judicial authorities, social services and local government will all work together to develop a plan of action for each individual case. I work as an operational coordinator and case manager for this organisation.

The FJC is located in the heart of Mechelen, but I live in Muizen, in the green belt around the city. It giver me so much energy riding my bike along the river and the Dijlepad to get to work every day.

How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

At the FJC, I meet a wide range of people: from many different nationalities, cultures, with other opinions. I find this diversity very interesting, as I am a bit of an immigrant myself in this city. I come from East Flanders, but after a quick detour through Antwerp I finally came home in Mechelen.

What would you say is Mechelen’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

After my studies in Ghent, I stayed there for a couple of years. Then I moved to Antwerp, but I completely lost my heart to Mechelen. It feels tailor-made to the needs of my family and I. In this city, you find everything you expect from a city here, but there is an easygoing feel and the streets are completely safe.

How has Mechelen contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

I’ve been living here for ten years now, so I think I can call myself a Mechlinian. On a professional level, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place in Mechelen. I could use all the experience I gained elsewhere to succeed in this wonderful FJC project, and I try to connect all the services in a constructive way.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Mechelen?

Mechelen is the place to be if you want to eat some good food. Whenever we have foreign friends visiting, the first thing we do is go into town for brunch. Climbing the St. Rumbold’s Tower is always a surefire hit: when you finally get to the top, you can clearly see that Mechelen is literally the hidden pearl right between Brussels, Antwerp and Leuven.

As a resident of Muizen, I’d also like to take visitors to Planckendael, or as I like to call it: our second garden, because we go there so often with our kids. It is a beautiful animal park that really tries its hardest to maintain itself and ensure the care of its animals. The caretakers here surely deserve a medal.

Can you talk to us about a local legend, a neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?

In the early seventies, three women were horribly raped and murdered right here in Muizen. The perpetrator Staf Van Eyken was called ‘The vampire of Muizen’ because of he used to bite his victims. He was convicted by the correctional court, and has already spent 45 years in prison. This makes him the longest-serving living prisoner in Belgium.

This is a well-known story here in Muizen. Unfortunately, this true story has a horrible link to my job at FJC. Van Eyken’s life story showed that as a child, he was a victim of serious domestic violence. To me, this is substantial proof that our work at FJC has a lot of value in society.