Day 5 in the court room in the case of Nicky Verstappen. Defendant Jos Brech is present.
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS.
Today, the prosecution presents its case in full. They will follow the case’s time line, presents all forensic evidence again, detail the steps that the police took in the investigation over the years, lists all witnesses and what their statements contributed to advancing the case, explain their reasoning why and how they weigh each piece of evidence, why they dismiss certain pieces, present their conclusions, and last but not least, they will announce the sentence that they seek.
The prosecution is taking the entire day and as you can imagine, there is a lot of ground to cover. I am going to highlight only a few points and not translate everything as it unfolds. That is simply too much. But a few things stand out.
The fact that the defense did not object to facing the Verstappen Family yesterday was seen by some as a sign of guit/confession but others considered the possibility that Brech was acknowledging their pain.
If found guilty, Brech will be sentenced according to the laws in effect in 1998. So, that means that the maximum sentence will be 20 years with the possibility to have mandatory treatment added to that sentence. That treatment will be in a psychiatric facility. This is called TBS, ter beschikking stelling van de regering. It is a system in which Brech remains in a facility with treatment and faces evaluation every 1 to 2 years. If it is deemed that this person is not making progress TBS can be extended. In fact, unless anything has changed in the law since I left, it can be extended indefinitely.
The only way that Brech could be sentenced to life under the 1998 law is if he had a record for homicide. He did not so, the maximum at that time, is 20 years with the possibility of TBS. In 2006, the Netherlands added a more structured path to bridge the gap between twenty years and life. However, those 2006 new rules do not apply here and cannot be imposed retroactively either.
The summer camp organizers have been placed under intense scrutiny that has haunted them and their families for decades. True, some had a record and that only fueled the rumors that they were responsible for Nicky’s death. Three times, police conducted DNA collection campaigns. One in 1999 with 37 men, one in 2009 with 107 men. Then one on a massive scale in 2015 where 15’000 men gave their DNA to Dutch Police in an effort to advance the case.
As you can imagine, a DNA campaign at this scale overloads labs and creates backlogs. This has of course hindered the investigation. Their biggest fear was that the DNA found belonged to someone who had afterwards left the Netherlands and therefore would be harder to find in databases. Aside from the camp leaders, also tested were all police and military police officers involved in the investigation, all lab technicians, the population of the nearby village, etc. Nothing.
Nicky’s friends who shared his tent were troubled for years as they all thought that it could have been them if they had gone outside to use the restrooms.
Despite the fact that the prosecution admits that they cannot reconstruct the timeline minute by minute, and not even hour by hour, they are convinced that Brech acted alone. There is no accomplice. The only person who can fill in the gaps in the timeline, is the defendant. He remains silent.
Brech’s DNA was not the only profile found on Nicky’s underwear but it was the only complete profile prominently present and in more spots than just a trace from an incomplete profile. As Brech was a frequent visitor of the forested area, he became part of that massive call to voluntarily donate DNA. Brech’s DNA that was recovered from Nicky came from his hair, dander, and saliva. As for locations, his DNA was found on more spots than Nicky’s himself.
The prosecution pointed out that the exact location where they found Brech’s DNA, is crucial. The crotch of Nicky’s underwear and his genitals were part of that.
Finding DNA profiles on clothes need not implicate anyone. Folding laundry leaves traces. Grabbing someone’s clothes while playing leaves traces but according to the prosecution, experts found that the traces Brech left indicated sustained, intense contact and not fleeting or light.
Nicky’s body temperature at death was not noted but lividity matched the body position that he was in when found. Note that how his body was found, was staged as Brech had straightened him. On his belly, Nicky had signs of decomposing that occurs 36-72 hours after dead at a temperature of 21 degrees Celsius.
From the traces of botanics (pollen, dust, vegetation, etc.) it doesn’t seem likely that there was another crime scene. From the botanic examination, experts did find that Nicky had been both on his back and on his stomach.
As to cause of death, the prosecution goes over the four options when dealing with death by non-natural causes: suicide, illness, accident, or homicide. They examined Nicky’s parents to rule out any genetic defects (especially on the heart) that might have caused Nicky’s death. None were found. Nicky had no illnesses.
The fact that he was found hidden, his body straightened, wearing his underwear and pajama bottoms inside out and backwards rules out suicide by the child and indicates homicide, according to the prosecution. There were no traces of violence but smothering doesn’t always leave traces. Whether there was any internal trauma on his neck or throat, I am not sure.
As to death caused by hypothermia, it was a warm August month. Nicky had not been missing long enough to cause death by dehydration.
The prosecution is convinced that Nicky was sexually abused. There was some trauma to the body that could not be explained by the ordinary process of decomposing. The trauma to the anal mucous membranes point to penetration.
At the time that Nicky’s autopsy took place, there were two pathologists who saw the trauma. However, one has since past away. I am not sure that the expert whom we saw in court is the surviving pathologist. What we do know is that the experts in court based their opinions on photographic materials. The experts did state that this trauma was not caused by hard stool.
The prosecution also doubts that Brech was really able to see Nicky or ‘something that caught his attention’ from the spot where he said he stood to urinate in the woods. Brech has refused to indicate what exactly caught his attention. Was it something he saw, smelled, heard, felt?
Two witnesses were walking their dog nearby. They saw a man and a boy on a bike. According to them, the boy let himself fall off the bike. He did make eye-contact with them but he didn’t say anything. The biker said ‘are you coming?’ to the boy who climbed back on the bike. One of those witnesses was just fifteen at the time. She remembers that the boy was barefoot and reminded herself that her parents would never have allowed her outside without shoes. I think she is the same witness who went to police and recognized Nicky’s picture.
One witness thought that she saw a spat between father and son and didn’t think any of it until a few weeks later. Her children remember how their mother told them what she saw.
Other witnesses testified that they heard a child scream and call out for his mother. This was approximately 5 minutes on bike from the spot where the other two witnesses saw a man and a boy on a bike. This is heartbreaking and I wonder if on Monday, the defense will go over the timeline and discuss these witness statements. Note that there is no evidence that it was indeed Nicky who cried out.
The prosecution said that Brech killed Nicky to cover up the crime of sexual abuse.
I am again skipping the child pornography discussion. In summary, on Brech’s computer were search results with the keywords ‘very young boys forced.’ Brech claimed others used his computer too but the prosecution doesn’t believe it. They found hundreds of pictures. Enough said.
As for his mental frame of mind, no disorders but again, Brech didn’t allow himself to be tested and didn’t participate in anything. Experts do believe that he can be held accountable for his actions.
The Prosecution asked for the following sentence: 15 years plus TBS (explained above) for all four charges with TBS to start after two-thirds of the sentence has been served. If the judges do not impose TBS then the prosecution asks for 18 years imprisonment.
The defendant’s silence can work in aggravation and if it did, it will be so indicated. Brech didn’t show any overt emotions when he heard this sentence.
A verdict may come in November but there is no indication of a time frame yet.
On Monday, it is the turn of the defense for closing arguments. The defense attorney did mention that more details would be given ‘when the time is right’ so his summation is one to watch.
I am still checking the papers so I may make corrections to this post later. All my other posts about Nicky Verstappen are here.
Rest in peace, Nicky Verstappen.