WARNING: this post contains graphic elements.
First, I heard from readers who thought that if the defendant remained silent during the trial proceedings that they forfeited their right to be the last person to address the court. Not according to Dutch law.
Remember, this is a Dutch case and the trial is taking place in the Netherlands. Jos Brech will be given the opportunity to speak last. It is an opportunity to make everyone see the case through his eyes.
Despite the fact that you are represented by an attorney, due to defense strategies and tactics your own words may get lost. Your words will be conveyed but how you say things, what your body language is while you speak the words you chose, is something else. There is no time limit for the defendant.
Victim Impact Statements
The family of Nicky Verstappen spoke first. They were represented by an attorney. They kept it short as there was nothing brought forward by the prosecution or the defense that they would want to reiterate. Remember that they had the opportunity to face Brech on the fourth day of trial. After this the prosecution responded first to the defense.
Rebuttal from the prosecution
The prosecution responds to a few points made by the defense.
The defense contends that after DNA was found the investigation went backwards with focus solely on Brech, fitting the case’s timeline to Brech’s, neglecting other explanations and possible suspects. Why? Brech’s pedophile preferences. The prosecution states that it ensured that the DNA dictated the investigation. Only after finding that one profile had to be of the perpetrator did they focus on identity. That’s when Brech became their focus.
The defense said that there is no evidence of sexual abuse as there is no evidence of anal penetration. Anal widening is part of the decomposing process and indeed, no sperm was found or other trauma normally associated with anal penetration. The prosecution states that there can be sexual abuse without penetration. Also, the absence of sperm doesn’t mean someone was not penetrated. Last, penetration need not be penile.
As for the times that Brech was interviewed and was weary hence hinting at a possible false confession, the prosecution gave the following numbers: there were 13 interviews totaling 17 hours over the space of 2 years. No word about the intensity of those interviews.
Apparently there is one last statement that Brech made and it still has not been included in the file. Why? The prosecution says that if it bolsters the defendant’s case, let’s discuss it now in court. According to the defense, it is filed away safely in a deposit box. It should safeguard Brech’s words to show later on that his version of the time line and events never changed.
As for the witnesses, one witness did recognize Nicky and reported it 20 years ago. There seem to be two others who heard a child scream/cry out. The prosecution reiterates that the area where Nicky was found is visited daily by approx. 20’000 people. They questions whether Nicky could be lost and not encounter anyone who would help.
Is it possible that Nicky died of acute stress? The prosecution points again to his general health. The red face and upper body did not hint at sunburn but mostly to decomposing of a body exposed to the elements.
The prosecution says that there is no innocent explanation for Brech’s DNA in Nicky’s underwear. IF Brech is right that he found a dead child, we can indeed expect his DNA on shoulders, neck, wrists, hands, etc. All the places that anyone would touch to find a pulse, to warm up extremities in an effort to get blood flowing, etc. But the inside of the underwear and the crotch?
As for dropping the child pornography charges, there is no conclusive evidence to point to other people. Remember that Brech stated others used his computer as well. The chain of evidence is contested because the photography was found after Brech had been extradited from Spain to the Netherlands. If necessary, inquiries will be made with the Spanish Court that ordered the extradition.
Apparently, police did speak with all the boys who shared the tent with Nicky at that time to see what they remembered from 20 years ago. Nothing further was mentioned about these men.
Rebuttal from the defense
The defense makes several points.
The rape kit did not render any results. That is correct.
They highlight again that some of the camp organizers had a record. The one spoken about passed away. However, his remains were exhumed and no DNA match was found with the profiles from this case. Whether this man, Joos Barten, and the defendant knew each other is not clear. As there never was a match with Barten, his involvement in the case remained limited to just being a camp organizer.
The defense questions how the prosecution came up with 20’000 visitors per day in that area.
They mention several things that were not done after Nicky Verstappen’s body was found such as MRI or CT scans. They claim that those scans might have been useful in determining the exact cause and time of death.
The last word
In the Dutch adversarial system, it is the defendant who has the last word, the last one to address the court and to add anything in their own words.
Brech restates that he found a dead body. He rushed to the body as soon as he recognized what he saw as a body. Remember that his attention was drawn to something, as he stated before. As much as he rushed when it became clear that what he saw was a human body, he hesitated to report to the authorities what he found because of his record. He feared that the stigma would immediately make him the sole suspect.
He repeats that he cannot answer any questions from the family as to Nicky’s last minutes. He repeats that he found him dead. He does admit to be relieved that the case is now out in the open as it was a burden to keep it a secret that he found Nicky.
Brech is emotional and has difficulty formulating his words. He often falls silent but as indicated before, there is no limit so he is allowed to take his time. He reverts to the court while crying. He hopes that the three judges will weigh all evidence and make the right decision as they hold his life in their hands.
If more materials arrive from the Spanish court, more time may be needed to decide this case. If not, the court’s findings and verdict will come on November 20.
By setting the date five weeks from now, the three judges signal that indeed, they will discuss and weigh everything carefully to ensure that justice is served. Until the verdict, Brech remains in custody.