BRUSSELS — He was an unrepentant gastronomic freeloader, from lobster right up to the after-dinner brandy, always enjoying the bounty to the fullest.
Titus Clarysse was infamous in and around the northern Belgian town of Ghent for walking into any restaurant of his choosing, ordering whatever his tummy and palate craved and walking out without paying.
"Curse him? Maybe. But kill him? That makes no sense," said Tim Joiris, head of the Ghent region restaurant and hotel federation.
Two days after the 35-year-old Clarysse was found dead in his apartment, investigators on Thursday were looking for suspects in what spokeswoman Annemie Sirlippens called "a case of murder or manslaughter."
Newspapers reported Clarysse was stabbed — a detail police would not confirm — on Monday night. There was no immediate indication of the motive and Sirlippens refused to provide more details.
Clarysse's gastronomic past, though, was the stuff of lore.
"We are talking about 100 incidents spread over several convictions," Sirlippens said, and at least a half-decade of gastronomic and financial excess.
Joiris knows, since he had enough restaurant owners complain. "It was trouble for everyone. And what's worse, for long nobody knew how really to deal with it."
Restaurants in Ghent, a medieval university town with gabled fronts and terraces on cobblestones, attract an international and varied clientele.
"In the end, we knew his face, but you know, on a busy terrace in summer, full of people, he knew how to blend in," Joiris said.
Several convictions did not stop him and tales of freeloaders being forced to do the dishes "are a myth," Joiris said. "He did it all, the grand restaurants, the terraces. He really tried them all."
Clarysse was called a "tafelschuimer" — someone who takes everything, even the crumbs, off the table.
De Standaard newspaper reported he was living on municipal welfare and often seemed to have the wrong kind of friends. It was unclear whether his death was linked to his freeloading.
"We are not talking about an aggressive guy. He was just happy-go-lucky about it," Joiris said. And Clarysse never held back.
"He was asking for it all — the whole menu," Joiris said, chuckling in remembrance.
"He would sit and wait after the meal — another beer, a brandy."