There are moments when you go through your regular breakfast of news feeds that you see an article that looks too familiar. Too familiar as in “I’ve seen such type of news before”. You are not shocked per se, but you are disappointed to read about it … again. Then you realize another family is going through the pains you have been through and are still going through.
Today, November 6th, was such a day.
As I scrolled through De Telegraaf website I noticed a headline I dread to read: “Investigation into Talitha’s death one big mess” [Nederlands | English]. On April 17th last year Talitha was killed by a train. Sadly enough a far too common method of suicide. The driver recalled seeing Talitha laying motionless on the track as he approached her. The assistant public attorney (hulpofficier van justitie), the detective who is in charge of the investigation on location, immediately assumed it was an obvious case of suicide. Subsequently, the surroundings of the ‘crime scene’ were not investigated. The forensic doctor (schouwarts) was not able to establish either suicide or homicide, yet no autopsy was requested.
The qualifications / quality of their work of both the assistant public attorney and forensic doctor have recently been publicly questioned. The lawyer Sébas Diekstra (I don’t know if he is family of psychologist René Diekstra) of the family of Talitha argues that the problem in this particular case lays with the former. So he wrote a letter of complaint to the head public attorney Bob Steensma.
The arguments of Diekstra show striking similarities to ours. Yes, suicide cannot be excluded, but the investigation performed does not support such a conclusion. In fact it does support a conclusion at all. A general lack of professional interest by the DA seems apparent in both cases: Talitha’s name was consistently misspelled in official documents, as was the case with Eline’s name misspelled at various moments.
Besides the legal expertise of lawyer Diekstra, Talitha’s family asked the forensic expertise of Mandy van Geuns. Let’s hope their complaint to the head public attorney Bob Steensma will be successful, although past events do not instill much hope.
Again, a family is forced to go through the long and difficult route of fighting the conclusions of the Dutch public attorney’s office. With every media coverage they will be forced to re-live the horrors of what happened to their beloved Talitha. With every request from the media for an exclusive coverage moment they will ask themselves: how much longer do we have to fight before we are taken seriously by the public attorney? Why not just give in because we ‘know’ what happened, even when in reality you don’t. Just for the thought of not having to fight the public attorney’s office anymore. For not having to read Talitha’s in the media anymore. For not having to read the comments ranging from supportive, to personal attacks, to “you are just relatives who just can’t accept that Talitha committed suicide”. The temptation to give up the fight is all too real. Yet, I am glad that one more family has decided to take on the fight to contest the conclusion of swift suicide by the Dutch police and public attorney. I feel for them. I feel for them having lost a loved one. I feel for them that they feel forced to have to go this route. I wish them all the strength and stubbornness they need for this fight. Every suspicious death should be investigated thoroughly. After all, homicide is one of the worst crimes anyone can encounter.
Coincidentally right next to Talitha’s article was article about the Dutch police restarting an investigation into several suspicious deaths [Nederlands | English] near psychiatric hospital Parnassia. After the sixth death found on the premise of the hospital, the police started an initial investigation earlier this year. Quickly a suspect was identified, but after failing to obtain the medical files, the police halted its investigation. Now a man has come forward who suspects his brother might be the suspect. The first death, seven years ago, was their mother, Tineke Verhagen.
Looking at previous cases discussed on this blog and these two recent cases, it is very tempting to think that the Dutch police has little interest in engaging in labor-intensive investigations. Let’s hope this is just a false notion.
Update 2014.11.09 – Both newspaper De Telegraaf and local TV station RTvNH report that the Public Attorney’s Office claims to have done a thorough investigation into the death of Talitha. This is not a surprising comment from the public attorney’s office. I have heard such comments from the Public Attorney’s Office before, including in the case of my sister’s death. Of course on August 17th we learned that the public attorney’s office will review Eline’s case after they reminded us multiple times they had done a thorough investigation.