A personal note on the ‘suicide’ of my sister Eline Melters

[Hetzelfde stukje, maar dan in Nederlands}

It hurts.

Losing someone hurt. You are reminded that life has limits. That it ends. That it is terminal. Intellectually you know everyone will die one day, some day. Yet, when it does happens you are confronted with its raw unprocessed reality. Sometimes you can sort of anticipate the death of a loved one. A grandparent is old and has shown fragile health for a while. A good friend is seriously ill and has been on the intensive care unit for a few weeks. Sometimes it happens without warning. A heart attack. A car accident. But, when this loss is accompanied with perceived injustice all the emotions come with a huge degree of uncertainty.Uncertainty you cannot give a logical place. Uncertainty you cannot process. It makes the question “why?” stick around like a leech. It just won’t let go. Why did this happen? How did this happen? Why did the police not investigate my sister’s death? Did they fail at their job? Am I seeing things that are not there? Am I being paranoid? The questions start to build up in your brain and you do not know where to go to answer them or if they are valid? Am I going crazy? The feeling of uncertainty and injustice is the equivalent of someone talking behind your back while denying it to your face and at the same time someone pouring salt in an open wound. This feeling last day after day, after day, after day. It eats you up. It devours you. It becomes a mental child of you. You start to live it. It consumes you and your life.

It hurts.

Welcome to my life and that of my family. On December 8th, 2009 my youngest sister Eline died. An autopsy revealed that three stab wounds to and through her heart proved fatal. Not that the findings of the autopsy mattered with regards to the investigation of her death, as shortly after finding her naked body on a grass field in front of a church in Urmond, the Netherlands, the police concluded that it was an obvious suicide. In as far as we have been told by the public attorney’s office, this is what the boyfriend said. After all, he witnessed the stabbing. As the police kept us in the dark about almost every aspect of the investigation, we had to uncover many facts by ourselves. A very time consuming task. A task my parents took upon for the most part. They have done a heroic job at it, but it has also scared them immensely. Isn’t the public attorney in charge of investigating crime?

It hurts.

The more details we uncovered, the more doubt creeped in our minds. How did Eline die? Was it a suicide as the police told us? Eline was a prolific writer, but no goodbye note was recovered. Why didn’t Mart, the boyfriend, call 1-1-2 (the European equivalent of 9-1-1)? And the list goes on and on. Finally, we were forced to ask the questions: Can we trust the police? Can we trust the public attorney’s office? What are we not allowed to know? Every request we made to obtain the police reports about the investigation in Eline’s ‘suicide’ was declined on the basis of protecting Mart’s and Eline’s privacy. Despite all these road blocks, one thing is obvious: the time it took the police and public attorney to determine that Eline committed suicide is too short to have done a proper investigation. The highly unusual nature of Eline’s suicide deserves a proper homicide investigation. After all, three vertical stab wounds in the chest of a 23 year old woman, when her boyfriend is at arm’s length from her at the time of the stabbing, after which she ran outside and died after about 120 meters of walking/running, has many strong indicators of homicide. But it was an obvious suicide. All we had to do was blindly trust their word.

It hurts.

Knowing you are facing injustice, you are brought to a cross-road: either you accept the conclusion of the police in the knowledge that it is going to be a gargantuan task to fight the authorities to admit they failed at their job while at the same time start a full investigation into Eline’s death in an unbiased fashion, or you fight them. For me and my family the choice was simple: we will not accept the social pressure to master learned helplessness, as we cannot start to process Eline’s death with dignity and humility without knowing what happened to her. Eline deserves her death to be treated with respect. We deserve to be taken seriously for as long as we bring forth serious doubt about the police investigation. So we started our fight.

It hurts.

One aspect in fighting the authorities that I did not fully anticipate is how emotionally taxing such a fight was going to be. And a long it has become. 2,045 days and counting. Not that I have not encountered arrogant and dismissive behavior of people in authority before. During my first year in high school I was diagnosed with dyslexia. For the first time in my life I collected 1s, 2s, and 3s as candy. Knowing that Dutch grades run from 1-10; 10 for a perfect score and 1 for writing your name correctly, and 6 for a pass, I was doing remarkably poor. The crux lay in French class. It was here that I was encountered formal teaching in a roman language for the first time and I struggled like never before. The toll it took went beyond just French. Clearly I had not mastered the skill of knowing when to give something up to not lose too much somewhere else. The time I needed to devote to French to get a 4 was so much that I was forced to neglect all my other classes. A few teachers saw my problems and addressed them appropriately. I received the professional tutoring I needed. Yet, the stigma that comes with dyslexia did not escape me. Especially in primary school I was considered a lazy, inattentive, and uninterested pupil. A stereotype not uncommon for dyslexic people, but certainly not unique, as people suffering from mental health have to deal with an even more stifling stigma. After my dyslexia diagnosis I was given a denigrating choice, despite the fact that my grades were sufficient to progress to the next year. Either I take a step back in my academic endeavors or I had to redo a year in high school. I choose the later option. After this year I was again disappointed. My grades were sufficient for the academic route, but the school’s fear for my academic potential forced me to go take a step back. Nevertheless, one teacher in specific trusted me. Ms. Rijpers. She helped me where she could, even after I was a horrible student during our first year of contact. I am forever grateful for her support. At the end of the day, I succeeded in my goals: I qualified for the academic route and went on to study at the University of Leiden. One thing I developed during my high school years was to have a combatant attitude when it matters. Eline’s death proved to be one of those moments where I had to be combatant. Relentlessly combatant.

It hurts.

This of course is frequently misconstrued by many people. I have been told that I have not processed Eline’s death yet. That I haven’t given it a place. That I cannot accept Eline’s suicide. Non of this is based on anything but intellectually lazy reasoning. Rather than being critical or open to discussing, it is apparently easier to just wave with the logic of non-acceptance. This bothers me intensely. The good thing is that the Dutch police and public attorney’s office apply the same logic and reasoning to cases they encounter on a day-to-day basis. You find a woman hanging. She must have committed suicide. Next case. You find a woman that was hit by a train. She must have committed suicide by jumping in front of the train. Next case. You find at the bottom of a bridge in a foreign country a young man who went missing a week earlier. He must have committed suicide by jumping. Next case. You find a woman with stab wounds to her chest and the boyfriend says it is suicide. Thank you for telling us. Another suicide case. Next.

It hurts.

I have accepted Eline’s death. She is dead. I cannot escape reality and that is reality. I have lost various people that were very close to me since Eline’s death. Friends and family. They died from either COPD, ALS, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, or primary sclerosing cholangitis. I miss them all. But I have given all them a place. Eline included. What bothers me is the injustice. The Netherlands pretends to be a civilized country with a strong law enforcement and a low murder rate. Yet, a critical note is waved away with arrogance and indifference. How would it be possible that they made a mistake when they signed off on a unnatural death being a suicide? The way the law is written, it is extremely difficult for families such as us to fight the authorities. We have no legal standings as victims. Even being granted permission to see the police files is often denied or organized in such a way that you have to go out of your way to see it. In our case, we had to wait over 5.5 years before we could see a police file that was closed back in December 9th, 2009. We were given one morning. But at least it was at a slightly more convenient location that all our previous meetings with the public attorney’s office. It is this injustice and bureaucratic road blocks that are thrown up in front of us that make it hard to start putting the entire episode behind me. I hold the authorities fully responsible for the hardship we had to and still are enduring. I see the toll it takes on my mother. I see the toll it takes on my father. I see the toll it takes on my sister. I see some of the toll it takes on me and people around me.

It hurts.

At times, it becomes too much and I become grumpy and agitated, which is especially unfair to my two daughters and wife. At times I have even felt a depression creeping up. My wife and daughters deserve a father and a husband who is with them. Not just physically, but certainly mentally. Yet, at times I am not. Talking with friends is also complicated. I try not to strain my relationships with my friends, but far too often does Eline come up in conversations. Eline’s injustice has become an all consuming thought. There is not a single day I do not think about Eline. Not one. Every second I think about Eline, I do not think about something else. I do not think about my wife. I do not think about my daughters. I do not think about my family and friends. I do not think about work. I do not think joyful moments. I think about Eline. I think about the injustice. I think how the authorities have treated Eline as a rag doll. A rag doll lying in the drizzling rain of a cold Tuesday morning in December. A naked rag doll drenched in blood. A rag doll that obviously committed suicide, because her boyfriend said so. A rag doll that is being put in a body bag and send off for an autopsy. Not for investigations, but just for formalities. Case closed. Next case.

It hurts.

Losing a sister hurts. Being denied justice by the public attorney’s office hurts far more. It feels like being stabbed … every day. Since December 8th, 2009 I have received 2,045 jabs in name of justice. That the public attorney’s office have been exclusively entrusted with bringing justice to the people in the name of the King of the Netherlands, only make the jabs more venomous. More voracious. More moral crunching.

It hurts.

9 thoughts on “A personal note on the ‘suicide’ of my sister Eline Melters

  1. Pingback: The conundrum of questioning Eline’s ‘suicide’ – Melters' Blog

  2. Carolina

    My dear friend,

    I understand your pain and anxiety. I understand your burning desire to have justice made and your questions answered, particularly where institutions are expected to work. I also lost my father in a crime that was never resolved. Someday you will forgive yourself for the guilt and inappropriateness toward your family and friends. It is a process that starts from within. In the meantime, do not apologize nor bring your guard down. I admire your resolution and hope you will find answers someday soon.

    Best,
    A long forgotten Washingtonian friend

    Like

    1. Thank you for your kind and sweet words, Carolina. I am very very sorry to hear about your dad. I hope that you have given it a place of some sort of peace. I indeed hope that Eline’s case will be re-opened and for the first time investigated as a crime. Only time will tell us if that will happen. For now all we can do is keep up the pressure.

      Like

  3. ton lansbergen

    Beste Daniel,
    Wat je zegt is waar over justitie.
    Ik heb me hard gemaakt voor de vader van Lesley en wat ik zie is,,dat ze het helemaal niet kan schelen of het opgelost wordt of niet.
    Ik snap je frustratie.
    Als je,,echt, de waarheid wilt horen,bewerk dan die vriend een paar uur lang met je vuisten.
    Hou je taai,groet ton

    Like

    1. Er is maar één instantie die mensen kan vervolgen en dat is het OM. Als een misdrijf niet vervolgd wordt, zijn zij, en alleen zij volledig verantwoordelijk voor het falen. Eén ieder die verdacht wordt van welk misdrijf dan ook mag nooit gedwongen worden aan zijn/haar eigen vervolging mee te werken. De bewijslast ligt exclusief bij het OM. Ik hoop dat Lesley’s zaak zo snel mogelijk serous genomen gaat worden door het OM.
      Sterkte Ton.

      Like

  4. My most sincere sympathies, my friend. I had no idea until I read this what you’ve been going through. I could offer personal experiences in understanding and identification, but I know that generally doesn’t do as much as one would hope. I fully understand that even the many people (including myself) who do sincerely express compassion, concern, affection, support and numerous other emotions that are heart-felt and meant in every fashion cannot heal wounds nor answer questions nor alter the course of things occurring in your life.

    I could tell you what other people do: that time heals all wounds — but in in honesty and experience I know as you have said above that it does not. I will not wish you to simply feel less pain or let go and let it fall into the numbing background as life never endlessly adds more to the foreground.

    I will say that though the words may sound empty: I will hope against the injustice and hope that you and your family prevail to find the true answers you seek. Like the many other people in your life that I know have already and the many more that will do so in the future (because of how awesome and fantastic a person you are) — I will say that if you’d ever like to talk, I would definitely listen.

    Like

  5. astrid storm

    Beste Daniël ,

    Bedankt voor het prachtige stuk wat je geschreven hebt over Eline. Het is precies zoals je het omschrijft : it hurts …
    Dank je wel. Jammer genoeg voor ons zo herkenbaar … Jouw gevoelens zijn ook de mijne. Ik wens zo vurig dat er een dag komt dat er duidelijkheid komt.

    Lieve groet, Astrid

    P.s heb je ook een Nederlandse versie ?

    Verstuurd vanaf mijn iPhone

    > Op 16 jul. 2015 om 03:48 heeft “Melters’ Blog” het volgende geschreven:
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    >
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    Like

    1. Dank je wel, Astrid. Ik wens ook jou heel veel sterkte. Niks is meer pijnlijk dan dat je gerechtigheid wordt ontnomen.

      Ik heb geen Nederlandse versie gemaakt. Ik zal deze nog maken en als PDF toevoegen.

      Like

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