“He didn’t know. Jan told me: ‘I made the mission and that’s all. And then I had to go back and save my life.’ ”
Pierre Coppens — Former Paratrooper and longtime friend of Jan Van Risseghem
Jan Henri van Risseghem de Santieron de Saint Clément (Plötzky – Germany, September 3 1923 — Moorsele – Belgium, January 29, 2007) was a Belgian pilot and mercenary. Many experts suspect that he caused the death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold — as well as fifteen other people on the plane — on September 18 1961. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
Jan Van Risseghem was born in Plötzky, Germany, on September 3 1923 — the son of a Belgian father and a British mother.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined his brother Maurice in the French resistance. Eventually, he moved to Portugal and then to England where he volunteered to join the British army.
In September 1942, he became a pilot with the Royal Air Force. He was decorated by Britain for his services in the second world war.
After the war he married an English woman. He worked for the Belgian national airliner Sabena from 1946 untill 1960, when he was — rather surprisingly — dismissed for “incompetence”
In May 1961, he went to Katanga, a rebellious province of Congo that tried — with some help from the Belgian government — to secede from the newly independent Congo.
In Katanga, Van Risseghem was in charge of the small air force AVIKAT. He was the pilot of President Moïse Tshombé and flew with a Fouga Magister CM-170, which was converted into a fighter plane.
The UN peacekeeping mission, which opposed the Katangese secession, captured Van Risseghem on August 28 1961.
Van Risseghem was expelled from the country and repatriated to Belgium on September 8 1961.
On September 16 1961, he returned to Katanga where he arrived before noon on September 7, about twelve hours before the tragedy that killed Hammarskjold and the sixteen other people on board of his UN plane.
Van Risseghem remained in Africa until 1963, first in the service of the South African Air Force (SAAF) and then with the Rhodesian Air Force (RhAF), until his own plane — Dragon Rapide — was destroyed in an air bombardment of the UN.
Back in Belgium, he became a pilot for the paratroopers at the Moorsele airfield, later moved to Deurne.
Until his death Van Risseghem officially denied any involvement in the crash of Hammarskjold’s plane (September 18 1961).
In an interview with an aviation historian Leif Hellström in the 1990s, he discussed the crash and various details of the official enquiry.
He emphasised that he was not in South Africa at the time it happened, and described the idea of an attack as “fairy tales”.
Prime Suspect from day One
As news of Hammarskjöld’s death emerged, the RAF veteran was apparently the obvious suspect.
He was named as the possible attacker by the US ambassador to the Congo in a secret cable sent on the day of Hammarskjöld’s death.
Confession to a “Brother in Arms”
In November 2017, a very credible source told INTEL TODAY that Jan Van Risseghem was the Belgian mercenary responsible for the death of Dag Hammarskjold.
Pierre Coppens met Van Risseghem in 1965, when he was flying for a parachute training centre in Belgium.
Over several conversations, he claimed, the pilot detailed how he overcame various technical challenges to down the plane, unaware of who was travelling inside.
False Alibi made by Belgian Intel Agency
The Belgian State Security Services — VSSE — had provided Jan Van Risseghem with a rock solid alibi.
However, newly released official documents from the VSSE show that this alibi is a pure fabrication.
RAF veteran ‘admitted 1961 killing of UN secretary-general’ — The Guardian (January 12 2019)
Hammarskjöld — Whodunit? Not the Guy In the Movie — Times of Israel
Belgische inlichtingendiensten geven Hammarskjöld-documenten vrij (Bood de Staatsveiligheid piloot Jan van Risseghem een alibi?) by Bruno Struys — De Morgen
Biography — Jan Van Risseghem [Prime Suspect in Hammarskjold Cold case]