Nicky Verstappen cold case killing ends in jail after 22 years

November 20, 2020 
A composite image shows two photos of Nicky Verstappen - on the left, a portrait, and on the right, a casual shot in a field of grass. He is about 11 years old, wearing an earring on his left ear, with a fringe haircut

image copyrightNetherlands Police

A 58-year-old man has been jailed for 12 and a half years in one of the Netherlands' most notorious crimes in recent years.

Jos Brech was found guilty by a court in the southern city of Maastricht of sexually abusing 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen and abducting him in acts that led to his death.

But he was cleared of manslaughter, because of insufficient evidence.

Nicky Verstappen disappeared from a tent in a summer camp in August 1998.

His body was found in woodland the next day, 11 August.

The killing remained unsolved for 20 years, leaving the boy's parents Berthie and Peter Verstappen and his sister fighting for justice.

The case was highlighted by legendary crime reporter Peter R. de Vries who used his popular TV programme to keep it in the public eye.

Berthie and Peter Verstappen at the start of the trial in September 2020

image copyrightGetty Images

Progress finally came through DNA evidence and a change in Dutch law that allowed a suspect to be traced through the DNA of a family member.

Dutch police in the south-eastern province of Limburg had collected plenty of DNA from the crime scene but needed a match. Voluntary mass testing of 14,000 men in the Limburg area followed and Brech was identified through a relative's DNA.

It later emerged that a military police officer had stopped him riding a bicycle in the dark hours after Nicky Verstappen's body had been found.

Berthie Verstappen said the sentence was not enough for the family but told reporters "the court has ensured we have a perpetrator and no longer a suspect... we're happy with that".

Brech, a survivalist, was reported missing in April 2018 but a tip-off revealed he had travelled to northern Spain and had been living in a tent in the woods. A Dutchman had seen him in the village of Castelltercol, north of Barcelona, and had spoken to him in July.

He was finally put on trial and denied killing the boy, claiming he had accidentally stumbled on his body and straightened his clothes.

Asked why he never told anyone, he replied: "Who believes an ex-sex offender?"

Prosecutors asked the court to jail Brech for 15 years for manslaughter, followed by compulsory detention in a psychiatric facility.

However, the court agreed with expert testimony that said Nicky Verstappen may have died of lack of oxygen and his death may have been unintentional as a result of his attacker putting his hand over the boy's mouth during sexual abuse.

But the chairman of the court was unequivocal in telling the defendant that "without your actions he would still have been alive on 11 August 1998".

Brech faces 12 years in jail for kidnapping and sexual abuse and a further six months for possession of child pornography. His lawyer has said he will appeal.

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