Today came the long awaited verdict in the case of Nicky Verstappen. The fact that we waited about five weeks for the verdict, points to how unusual the case is and how heavy it weighs on the judges. This was symbolized today.
After the judges were seated, they first addressed Nicky’s family. Acknowledging the pain of the past decades, the agony of not knowing, and sharing the frustration of still not having all answers, set the tone for the verdict.
The way the verdict was read is also unique for the Netherlands. All three judges read a part, the senior judge went first.
They will cover four charges: homicide, sexual abuse, abduction, and possession of child pornography.
No new documentation was received from the court in Spain regarding child pornography. The very specific and graphic keyword searches do speak volumes. Possession of child pornography was not listed on the Spanish’s court order to grant extradition so, this matter is not resolved as of yet.
The senior judge handled this part and she detailed why the court reached this conclusion. At the time that Nicky was found, the exact cause of death could not be established. The pathologists did see rectal trauma caused by penetration. Other pathologists and experts only examined photography but never saw the body.
The consensus is that the trauma was caused by penile penetration or by a smooth, large object. One expert indicated that the trauma was caused pre-mortem, shortly before Nicky died. The senior judge indicated that she doesn’t doubt the experts’ findings.
The three judges agreed that Nicky was stripped and dressed again later. Remember, his pajama bottom and underwear were on his body backwards and inside-out. They also agreed that his body position was staged after death. The court agrees that the DNA traces and spot placements match the movements to remove underwear. They also found no innocent explanation for Brech’s DNA in Verstappen’s underwear. The court considers sexual abuse proven.
There is no indication that Verstappen was a willing sexual partner so even if he wandered after using the camp’s restrooms, the court considers the abduction proven.
From the beginning, the case has been hindered by not knowing the exact time and cause of death. There are five causes of death: natural, an accident, suicide, homicide, or undetermined. The experts ruled out death by natural causes as well as by suicide and death by an accident. That leaves us with homicide and an undetermined cause of death.
Because the sexual abuse is established, the medical experts believe that it contributed to Verstappen’s death. The cause of death is therefore homicide. Homicide can be unintentional and intentional. In Nicky’s case, suffocation is the most likely cause. The court rejects sunburns, snake bites, dehydration, etc. They mark that Verstappen did not have any underlying medical issues or genetic disorders.
No expert has been able to establish how long Nicky was deprived of oxygen or, if he was smothered several times before he finally died. To answer part of this question, the court refers to Brech’s record.
Three young children were abused by Brech. The way that Brech brought them under his control was to approach the boys from behind, place his hand over their mouths, and then force the boys to come along. Being forcefully pushed to the ground, hand over mouth, and the shock of sexual abuse, all taken together could have caused Verstappen’s death. However, Brech may not have intentionally deprived Verstappen of oxygen.
The intent to kill (or murder in the first degree) has not been proven. Also not proven by the prosecution was that Brech understood that Verstappen’s death would automatically follow from his actions. The fact that he sexually abused Nicky does not prove that he meant for Nicky to die. The court found Brech not guilty of manslaughter. Neither murder nor manslaughter was legally proven in court however, they literally said that Brech is not beyond reproach. If it had not been for Brech, Nicky Verstappen would be alive today. Nobody and nothing else caused Verstappen’s death.
The court dismisses Brech’s videotaped statement as untrue. They do not believe that he found a dead boy and that Brech straightened the body and the clothes in a moment of grief. As for DNA cross-contamination, the court pointed out that the placement and amounts of Brech’s DNA in Verstappen’s underwear cannot be explained by cross-contamination. Rejected too were the theories of multiple attackers.
As Brech did not cooperate in any of the psychological assessments, the findings are not exhausting. However, Brech was deemed capable of making choices and has shown that in years prior to this case, that restrained was possible. The court found Brech to be fit to be held fully accountable.
The court noted that the only person who can answer all the Verstappen Family’s questions, is Brech. They acknowledged how scared Nicky must have been in the last moments of his life. Brech said that in time more (information) would be revealed but he never did. Despite stating this, that the court is holding this against Brech, the verdict does not reflect anything but the law.
The court sentenced Brech to 12 1/2 years for sexual abuse causing Verstappen’s death, his abduction, and possession of child pornography with deductions for time served since his arrest.
The sentence is lower than requested (15 years) by the prosecution. However, the court felt hindered by not having concrete evidence of cause/exact time of death.
The defense will appeal, the prosecution will announce its decision later next week. Kindly note that this is a translation of various newspaper articles and the livefeed about the case. I may tweak the translation later on when I re-read this. All posts about the Nicky Verstappen case can be found here.
Note: some of you have expressed frustration that Brech was not sentenced for intentional homicide or manslaughter. I get that frustration. Many in the Netherlands feel the same but the law is the law.
There was no precedent for the court to act on. In previous abusive encounters, none of the boys were murdered. He let them all go or, they got away without Brech hunting them. He has never been charged or convicted for murder. It isn’t perfect. That is why the three-panel court went out of its way to show through departures of procedural ceremony, that they understand. But they are bound by law
Rest in peace, Nicky Verstappen.
UPDATE: the prosecution will appeal.