“We also regret this second suicide, but we are only responsible for the investigation itself. The suspect is responsible for his own choices. They choose to have sex with a minor in a strange situation. They chose to deal with it their own way as well.”
These were the words of spokesperson of the District Attorney’s Office in Limburg, the Netherlands. A rather remarkable statement when a second suspect who was just heard by the police commits suicide in the same case. This does not mean that the exploitation of a 16-year old girl can be justified in any way. The suspects who committed suicides were customers of the girl, not the ‘loverboy’ or pimp. For 50 men the name was traced and these men were suspected of having had sex with a minor. Another 30 men are suspected to have had sex with her, but their names remain unknown for the police at the moment.
Exploiting anyone for financial gain is deplorable in my view, even more so if this is a minor who is put in harms way. Yet, the appearance that the police and the public attorney have pressured two suspects beyond their coping-point is tempting. It was also the same public attorney David van Kuppeveld who said that they police would visit all clients of the exploited young girl at home unless they showed up at the police station voluntarily. “Wifes might be surprised to see police at their doors and hear why they are there.”
I doubt that this statement alone would be sufficient to drive someone to commit suicide out of fear. Afterall, it is the police who interrogates these man who had sex with a minor for money.
The questions that should be asked: How were these men questioned? Did anyone tell the police how to interrogate these men? If so, who was this or were these?
The reason why I ask these questions is that in the Netherlands a suspect indeed has the right to be consulted by a lawyer, but this lawyer is not allowed to be present during the interrogation. Recordings of interrogations (audio and/or visual) are not the norm. They are remarkably uncommon. It did not involve a rape or homicide or the interrogation of a minor. Therefore the public attorney should have give explicit orders to record. I doubt such orders to record these interrogations were given. Verification of how these men were interrogated now solely rest 1) the police report (proces verbaal) which was written exclusively by the interrogating officer and 2) the suspects who were interrogated, but have not committed suicide. As these suspects are accused of having had sex with a minor, I doubt any of these men would like visit the limelight. This means we are exclusively relient on the police reports. Can we trust these a priori? I don’t think so. It would not be the first time a police report is falsified by Dutch police. The good thing for these officers who commit fraud and perjury is that no public attorney will prosecute them. At least this has not yet happened.
If an interrogation is recorded this does not mean that your lawyer will request it or listen to it or the judge for that matter. After all in the Netherlands the police report is considered a factual recording of the facts. Why would anyone doubt these?
Clearly Dutch law has caveats that need to be addressed. I think that all interrogations need to be recorded (video and audio), no matter how small the case is. In addition, a lawyer should always be present during an interrogation for any crime. This to guarantee that the police does not interrogate a suspect too harsh or tries to force a confession by lying or telling dubious half truths. These two upgrades to the Dutch legal system would allow for a firm establish of the rights of any suspect and will help prevent new errors being made by the legal system (think of false confessions leading to wrongful convictions, etc.). After all, how can anyone trust the authorities if they claim to tell the truth, but no one is allowed to verify this. And then error after error is being discovered and now two suspected customers are dead.
The story of the ‘loverboy’ case doesn’t end here.
The ‘funny’ thing happened shortly after the news broke the second suspect had committed suicide. The public attorney’s office rephrased their earlier statements made by Van Kuppeveld. No suspect was actually visited at home or at work. “From the beginning suspects were called by the police and invited for an interrogation. It has always been like this.”, emphasizes Martina Blijker. How this misunderstanding could have happened in the first place was not addressed by Blijker. “How this happened might be part of a future evaluation.” This was also confirmed by head publicatoney Roger Bos. The public attorney also pressed that after the interrogation the suspects will be offered psychological counseling if they need it.
This does not mean that the public attorney feels responsible for these two suicides. This notion was further confirmed by psychologist Harald Merckelback. Although Merckelbach gives the appearance he is an independent investigator at the University of Maastricht, he also is a member of the Public Attorney’s Office group Advise Committee for Closed Cases, where convicted people can request a new investigation if they believe they have evidence that would exonerate them. Of course, no lawyer in the Netherlands has ever received the raw data from the Dutch Forensic Institute, so requesting a new DNA test will be hard to argue for. It is therefore not surprising that no case has been granted a new investigation by this group of ‘outside’ experts.
On another note, legally it might be doubtful if statutory rape was committed based on laws Sr244 and Sr245. If someone is 16 or older, you can have sex with anyone you like in the Netherlands. Only law Sr248b states that you cannot have sex with a prostitute younger than 18. This comes with a maximal punishment of 4 years incarceration, whereas rape of a minor could cost you up 12 (law Sr244) or 8 years (Sr245).
To me it almost seems that the public attorney was desperate to get as many convictions out of this case as possible. (This would is in line with the focus areas of the Public Attorney’s Office in Limburg.) Clearly, this has backfired. Now it is up to the Dutch media to force an answer out the Public Attorney’s Office to explain how it was possible that two suspected customers committed suicide shortly after their interrogation?