WARNING: this post contains graphic details!
The loss of a child as young as Nicky, is horrifying. However, demanding a harsher sentence than the law from that time period allowed for, is unlawful. This in reaction to emails from readers who asked why Brech cannot just get a life sentence.
Last, note that which ever way the court decides, an appeal in this case is certain.
The defense sets the tone by acknowledging the immense pain from the Verstappen Family. They feel their pain and frustration that after such a long time, we still do not have all the answers.
The defense is right. As discussed her before, there are many gaps in the timeline and questions that are still unanswered. It is one of the most frustrating aspects of old, unsolved cases.
Finding DNA is often hailed as the breakthrough. However, DNA doesn’t explain everything. DNA cannot tell you the whole story. According to the defense, you cannot claim that a match means intense contact or that the duration was longer than normal. What is the basis for comparisson? If you find DNA, that is that. It is there but it cannot tell you how long it has been there or for example, how much pressure was applied when the DNA was left on an item/object/person.
In this case, DNA tells us that at one point Brech had contact with Nicky Verstappen. However, it doesn’t tell us whether he is truthful when he said that he found the child already dead.
The defense brings forward an all too familiar investigative strategy when after many years, DNA is found. The investigation resumes but backwards. Now that there is DNA, we try to find a match through various databases. Then we try to narrow the pool of possible suspects. Whoever remains is placed under surveillance and scrutiny.
They point out the risk of tunnel vision. The moment that a match is there, all other alternative explanations for the facts as found, can get lost. For example, nobody testified seeing Brech observing the summer camp looking for possible victims. At the spot where Nicky was found were no sign of fighting. He also had no defensive wounds. Last, the defense points out that a number or camp leaders had records for indecencies. I need to reread those parts to be able to state exactly what type of indecencies or, if there were convictions for rape, etc. But remember, they were all tested and none of their DNA was found on Nicky.
According to the defense, in 1998 we didn’t preserve evidence as we do now in 2020. There is a risk of contamination. Items were lifted with two fingers instead of with gloved hands. Items were transported in paper bags. For inventory, pieces of evidence were placed on paper to be photographed but the paper was not switched with every new piece of evidence.
The right to remain silent
Remaining silent is the right of the defendant. It is indeed often regarded as a sign of guilt. However, the opposite isn’t right either. Making someone talk can lead to false confessions and wrongful convictions. We have plenty of such cases on this website. The defense points out that Brech has been interviewed 13 times in this case. I am not sure what the timespan is for those 13 interviews.
The defense questions why a less sharp memory is forgivable when we deal with witnesses but not when we deal with suspects or defendants. How consistent were the witnesses and how inconsistence was Brech? They do not deny that the witnesses saw Brech. Brech tied himself to the crime scene by stating that he was there to urinate. He placed himself next to Nicky as he found him and straightened his body.
One witness saw a boy with a man on a bike. The boy was wearing red pants. At the time, they were not 100% certain that they saw Brech. However, now they are.
Another witness stated in 1998 to have seen an approx. forty-year-old man and a boy. No mention of the boy being barefoot or of only wearing pajama bottoms. And, no identification of Nicky Verstappen. That came later after the case was discussed in the media.
So, is there a risk that the media exposure filled in the gaps in people’s memories? Yes, of course. But the defense is correct in pointing out that if essential details are missing, we cannot ignore those. People who at first didn’t recognize anyone but after two decades suddenly have a clear vision, should be asked more detailed questions to see which elements they got right and how crucial those elements are to prove the charges that the defendant faces. Only then would those witnesses be supporting the charges and the evidence.
As discussed before, there is no agreement amongst the many national and international experts who were consulted in this case. The DNA came from an enzym that is also present in saliva. No semen was found. The location of the saliva is unclear. I may need to reread the newspapers on this point. If I find anything I will correct this post later.
The defense said that the saliva enzym could have gotten there if Brech clasped his hand over his mouth upon finding the body, and then checked Nicky for a pulse.
As for the widening of the anus, it can be indicative of sexual abuse but it can also be a natural element of a decomposing body. Other trauma usually present in cases of sexual abuse, were absent.
Absent also were Brech’s pubic hair and/or blood on Nicky’s body. No DNA from Brech around Nicky’s neck, nose, or mouth. Brech’ DNA was found on the pajama pants but in lesser concentrations than the underwear. They did admit that DNA found on underwear is suspicious. But is it in and of itself enough to convict?
No definitive answers
The defense points to two huge factors: no exact time of death and no exact cause of death.
The estimate is that Nicky Verstappen passed away around 6am on August 11, 1998. However, that means that his body was lying outside as he vanished from camp the day before. That also means that nobody saw the body between those hours despite the fact that the area was used by bikers, people walking their dogs, etc.
As for dehydration, the defense mentions the lack of data as to temperatures to determine if dehydration could have been a factor in Nicky’s death. Is there a chance he had run away, was dehydrated, had a heatstroke, fainted, and combined with stress, the heart stopped? We do not know. The defense points to what police said at the time, that Nicky was red in the face and upper body indicating possible sunburn.
The defense points to a circumstantial case where one of the evidence pieces is suspicious (e.g. Brech’s DNA in Nicky’s underwear) but that everything else, as indicated above and in other posts, raises new questions, does not answer old questions, and does not prove the prosecution’s charges beyond reasonable doubt.
On Friday, October 16, is the last chance for the prosecution and the defense to respond to each other. The Verstappen Family, represented by an attorney, will be allowed to respond to both the defense and the prosecution. The defense however, will have the last word. All other posts about Nicky Verstappen are here.