Nicky Verstappen disappeared from a tent in a summer camp in August 1998
Nicky Verstappen cold case: killer found guilty after 22 years
58-year-old 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, then aged 11, was at a summer camp in August 1998 when he vanished from his tent. His body was discovered in the forest the following day.
How the cold case was cracked
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.
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.
Jos Brech, who lived nearby, was reported missing in 2018, following the largest DNA testing project ever in the Netherlands.
Mr Brech had been spotted near the scene of the crime in 1998. He was later interviewed as a witness by police, but was thought to be an innocent passer-by.
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”.
Jos Brech arrest
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.
Source – BBC – Wikipedia – Dutch News