Dutch police botches another investigation in a missing person’s case

On February 9th, 2015 Mariska Peters from Nijmegen told her parents that she would visit a friend of hers, but this friend knew of nothing. Shortly after she left she went missing. Today, February 22nd her body was found. She was 21 years old.

When someone goes missing and the possibility it is due to a crime should warrant a strong police response. This was not to be case and this is rarely the case in the Netherlands. On March 9th, 2010 Milly Boele (12) went missing. She was on the phone with her mom when she had to open the front-door because a neighbour was there with a kitten on his arm. About an hour later Milly’s mom got home, but Milly was nowhere to be found, whereas her cell phone and jacket were still there. The police was notified and they were made aware of cancelled phone-call she had with Milly. A week later on March 16th Sander Vreeswijk, a fellow police officer, confessed to being Milly’s murder.

The police justified their lack of action to their protocol which assumes no crime if a 12-year old goes missing, but rather a run-away. If no crime is assumed, no reason exist to start a full police investigation. Would a quick and thorough investigation of the neighbours have saved Milly? Maybe, maybe not. But it would have prevented a week of horrible agony for her family.

The same happened with missing case of Mariska Peters. Her car was found close to her parental home a day later. This by itself was not reason to increase the detective force of 5 full time employees. Not until suspicion of foul play arose following found evidence from the said car was the detective force increased to 25. This was on February 19th.

Yesterday, Peters’ family contacted the private investigation group that uses dogs trained in locating human remains 15 minutes after starting their search. The police provided this group with several regions of potential interest and the first site the group investigated resulted in a positive identification. Yesterday, it also became known that Mariska Peters was seen in a BMW with an unknown man.

Now the police has taken over and will probably present this case as a success story. But why did Peters’ family have to push the police to intensify their investigation? Why did they have to contact and arrange for the private investigation group to help in the police investigation? It is tempting to think that the police simply did not take Peter’s missing case serious. Why is it so difficult for the Dutch police to take missing person’s cases seriously?

In the case of my sister Eline, as well as Iris van den Hooff, Talitha, and Michelle Mooij the police made a quick assertion of what happened and subsequent police work was narrowed down to this initial assertion. In all these cases there is either proof or strong suspicion that the initial assertion was wrong. Secretary of Justice Ivo Opstelten, head of the new formed police force, recently focalized his unnegated trust in the competence of the police and the initial assertion made by the first police officer arriving on the scene of a potential crime. It is difficult to take such trust serious when mistake after mistake is being made in the very early stages of a crime. This is the most critical moment for any investigation to gather information. If the first thing a police officer does is draw a conclusion based on a quick first look, mistakes are to be expected. And that is what we see. I am sure it is cost-effective, but does it provide justice for victims of a crime?

Edit 2015.02.24: a few corrections. 1) Mariska told her parents she went to visit a friend of hers, but her friend was unaware of her intentions. 2) The private investigation group found Peters’ body 15 minutes after starting their search.

New critical notes about systematic lack of investigation of suspicious deaths in the Netherlands

When a person is found dead, someone usually calls 9-1-1 (in the USA) or 1-1-2 (in the EU). In most cases the police is the first on the scene. In the Netherlands this is a critical moment in the investigation of any death. If the arriving officer thinks (s)he is dealing with an accident or suicide or natural death, little hope exists that any investigation will be started, besides finding the family/relatives of the deceased one. If a forensic autopsy is conducted and a suggestion is made that the cause of death is different from the one initially assumed and the responsible public attorney is willing to consider this alternative cause of death, days of gathering information is lost and lost forever. It has to be noted that the forensic pathologist in the Netherlands does not determine the cause of death, but the public attorney does, often just copying the assumption made by the arriving police officer. As suicide, accidents, and natural deaths are no criminal matter, the case is closed in the eyes of the public attorney.

It is not surprising if doubt is casted over various deaths from this simplistic investigation model. I have discussed cases such as my sister Eline, Talitha, Iris van der Hooff, and Michelle Mooij. In the later case, her ex-boyfriend will stand trial on Wednesday February 11th. About 5 years after the fact. A clear breach of the human rights principles that rule in the European Union where someone should not await trial for too long a period. At least I consider 5 years too long. In the cases of Talitha and Iris the worst possible scenario seems to play out. These deaths were never investigated. No evidence was gathered that could be of use by a prosecutor. And no clear suspect is in sight to interrogate. In my sister’s case there is evidence collected, because the arriving officer did consider her death a possible homicide, but was apparently quickly overruled. The gathered evidence is currently (pictures of the blood stains in the house in Urmond) being investigated. Also a clear suspect exists if it were to be a homicide.

This all is not surprising to prof. dr. Peter van Koppen, a law psychologist at the University of Amsterdam and dr. Frank van der Goot, the forensic pathologist who autopsied Eline and Iris and looked at the case report of Talitha.

On February 10th, the in-depth news program EenVandaag showcased two cases (Eline and Talitha) to bring home the consequences of the current Dutch procedures. The families are forced to do their own work and pressure the authorities to do the right thing. To the frustration of their respective lawyers.

Yet, if you listen to the recent finding of dr. Van der Goot, about 50% of all deaths in the Netherlands are misdiagnosed (20% of hospital deaths and 50-75% for all other deaths). Although not all are the consequences of foul-play, structural misdiagnosis of cause of death is big problem. Too many homicides go unnoticed and very few people in the Netherlands seem to be bothered by this. It almost seems as if the the Dutch take pride in their own ignorance. The lack of investigation will inevitably lead to small number statistics which are inherently susceptible to dramatic fluctuation (see it as someone with a mood-disorder). With the number of forensic autopsies the Netherlands stand steadfast at the bottom of the European charts. The less you investigate, the less you find and the less you learn. That the homicide rate is declining is off course to be expected in such circumstances and so are the “facts”. What I think is worse is that knowledge if not obtained where it should and decisions about causes of death are based on gut feeling alone as cold hard facts simply are not gathered. These cold hard facts can only be documented if a proper forensic investigation is started in the first place. By investigating less and less the available knowledge will decline even further. Of course the decline of the investigative branch of the police following the Police Law of 1993 does not help either. What can anyone expect from a freshly minted police officer who lacks basic knowledge to not rely on his gut alone? It would off course be nice if the average Dutch police officer had plenty of time and help from his/her colleagues to do his/her job. The problem itself is far too systematic to be quickly writing up, but this help is unlikely to come soon. At the end of the day, despite all the goodwill of every individual police officer, many erroneous assumption and subsequent conclusions are to be expected. I can only fear more cases such as Michelle, Talitha, Iris, and Eline.

The Dutch Public Attorney says about Eline’s case: “we will now investigate the already gathered evidence”

5 years, 1 month and 4 days. This is the time between Eline’s death and today. Today, we had a new meeting with the Dutch public attorney in Maastricht. After 1.5 hours we parted ways and with we, I mean my parents, sister, and our lawyer Arthur van der Biezen, deputy head DA George Rasker and DA Olav Beckers.

On December 8th, 2009 we learned, many hours after the fact, that Eline had died. A suicide, we were told. After talking to various people and institutions it became apparent that the conclusion of suicide has little support by the facts. More surprising, many facts could not have been known by the police and public attorney because they never investigation and quizzed various people in Mart’s and Eline’s lives.

On October 29th, 2010 our lawyer Van der Biezen filed a request with the public attorney to re-open the case. A response by head DA Annemarie Penn-te Strake was written up on November 24th, 2010: request denied because they have conclusive evidence that supports their conclusion of suicide. Their response did not satisfy us the least bit and we wrote another request to the public attorney to re-open Eline’s case. Again, our request was denied. And again we argued in a letter that their conclusion of suicide was not supported by the facts.

Finally, we learn that the public attorney is open for a dialogue. On August 19th, 2014 we meet in Maastricht. The public attorney agrees to review the existing files, but they stress that the case will not be re-opened. Today, January 12th, 2015, in a new meeting, the public attorney (deputy head DA George Rasker and DA Olav Beckers) let us know that, after a long internal review process, various pieces of forensic evidence still need to be processed. In fact, the blood that was found in the house at Kloosterstraat 4a, where Eline and Mart lived, was gathered but not investigated. The investigation in the house was done by forensic investigators under strict supervision of an unknown examining judge and the DA Oelmeijer-Naus according to the letter of then head DA Annemarie Penn-te Strake. In other words, the very thorough investigation we were told to have occurred by head DA Annemarie Penn-te Strake and DA Emma Oelmeijer-Naus was not that thorough after all.

The new investigation will take a look at the origin of the blood spatters and which scenario fits best with these blood spatters. Afterall, the autopsy report of Frank van de Goot (NFI) clearly mentioned that homicide cannot be excluded.

This is of course encouraging news for us, especially in light of other recent similar cases: Michelle Mooij, Iris van den Hooff, and Talitha. In all cases a similar thing happened: suicide was quickly suspected and subsequent forensic investigation was suspended because suicide is not a case for the public attorney, as verbalized by public attorney spokesperson Désirée Wilhelm.

Michelle’s case was re-opened after her family went to court to force the public attorney to investigate her death and a trial is now pending. Talitha’s family received a letter last week where the head DA Roger Bos apologized for mishandling their daughter’s case. Now, we learn that the public attorney will investigate 5 year old evidence, although they still stress that the case has not been re-opened. For now, the public attorney still assumes that Eline committed suicide. Only in the case of Iris is her family still waiting to hear something positive of the public attorney in Groningen.

Dutch public attorney admits: “we should not have called Talitha’s death a suicide”

Shortly after Talitha’s death on April 17th, 2013, the police and public attorney concluded that she must have committed suicide. She was hit by a train. A not uncommon method of committing suicide. One police officer claimed to have found a note in her pocket detailing train schedules and the route from the nearby Heerhugowaard train station to the location where she was found. Obvious conclusion: suicide. Case closed.

Talitha’s family did not share the conviction of the public attorney’s office, so they decided to take on the public attorney with their lawyer Sébas Diekstra. Various letter to the public attorney were initially futile, but this did not stop them. They moved their objections up the ranks to the head of the public attorney’s office of Noord Holland, Bob Steensma. Shortly after contacting Steensma, they pressed charges against the police officer who claimed to have found that damning note for perjury. The family has that particular note in their possession and what they see on the note does not correspond to the claims of the police officer.

Recently Talitha’s family received a letter from the Steensma, where Steensma, in name of the public attorney’s office, offers his apologies. The public attorney who was in charge of the case should not have made the conclusion as swift as he did. “Based on the findings the public attorney should have concluded that the investigation lacked the indications that point to a crime and that there are not enough indications to point to a possible suspect.”

A year and half of fighting by Talitha’s family paid off. I am glad for them. Of course it does not bring back Talitha, but it takes away the wrongful conclusion that was forced upon by the authorities. By admitting having made a wrongful conclusion, the public attorney Bob Steensma shows maturity. On Monday January 12th, we will learn what the public attorney in Maastricht has concluded from reviewing Eline’s case.

Suicides in the Netherlands are not on the rise; deadly falls by elderly in nursing homes are.

Yesterday was not only the 5th anniversary of my sister’s death, it was also the day that the Dutch national statistics office (CBS) made public the number of suicides this year. In 2013 1,854 people committed suicide or 11.0 per 100,000 people. In 1970 the suicide rate was 8.0 per 100,000 people or 1,049 suicides. A rather steep increase, at least when looking at the absolute numbers (Figure 1B). In contrast, the absolute homicide numbers in the Netherlands have been decreasing (Figure 1A), at least between 1997 and 2011. Between 1969 and 2011 the homicide has gradually increased (Figure 1B, green).

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Figure 1. A) Absolute homicide numbers by sex in the Netherlands as reported by the CBS for the period 1996-2011. Blue=males; Red=females; Black=respective trend lines. B) Absolute homicide and suicide numbers as reported by the CBS for the period 1969-2013. Blue=male suicide; Red=female suicide; Green=total homicide; Black=respective trend lines.

What is surprising is the increase in suicides by males, but not females (Figure 1B, black trend lines). Their suicide numbers are remarkably stable. Sure, males commit more suicide, a fact common among all nations in the world. As I mentioned previously, males tend to commit suicide about twice as often compared to females. Yet, the ratio male::female is on the incline (Figure 2, red) for suicides and there is no indication to argue that the increasing disparity between male vs female suicide is leveling of. Surprisingly, and in contrast to the general assumption, the homicide sex ratio is slowly declining (Figure 2, green).

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Figure 2. Sex ratio for suicide (red) and homicide (green). In black the trend lines are shown for both homicide and suicide.

Another factor potentially influencing suicide rate could be age. In contrast to homicide, where the age is roughly constant (fluctuation most likely due to relatively small number), a shift in age is observed for suicide. Now more and more middle aged people commit suicide, whereas in the past younger people committed relatively more suicide. This observation is consistent with data from the US. In this study by Bloomberg found that, despite less men dying from cancer and heart disease, more men between the age of 45-54 die from suicide and drug overdose.

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Figure 3 Comparing age groups for suicide vs homicide between years. Each line represents a year between 1996 and 2011. The numbers represent relative size of each age group (grouped by 10 years) Homicide age groups remain fairly stable, whereas a suicide is becoming more common in middle aged people.

Also maritial status of the person committing suicide (Figure 3A1), method of suicide (Figure 3A2), and why (Figure 3A3). The categories for why people commit suicide is a bit doubtful, as I have pointed out various cases where the police simply assume to know why and how people do what they do without doing a forensic psychiatric autopsy. Yet, it is striking that in about 40% of all suicide it is not known why it was committed. This could be a problem with data collection at the local police departments, but it could also be that the police just didn’t bother to start an investigation because a suicide is not a criminal offense and thus does not require a police investigation. In about 25-30% of all suicide is a goodbye-note found. In many cases a suicide case involves a person with known psychiatric illnesses. I can imagine (but not back up with numbers) that known medical history and suicide notes combined account for the data presented in Figure 3A3.

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Figure 4 A1-3) General statistics for suicides for the period 1996-2011 in the Netherlands. B1-3) general statistics for homicide for the period 1996-2011 in the Netherlands. A1) Marital status of suicide victim. A2) Method of committing suicide. A3) Perceived reason why someone committed suicide. B1) Where a homicide happened. B2) How a homicide was committed. B3) Why a homicide happened.

Similarly the methods/weapons used to commit homicide (Figure 3B2) is fairly consistent, in particular the use of a knife. The use of a firearm to kill was slightly out of fashion the second half of the first decade of the 21st century. It is surprising to see that more and more homicides are committed on the premise where the victim lived (Figure 3B1). All other locations for homicide is remarkably predictable. The reason for homicide is largely unknown (grey line in Figure 3B3). I can only speculate why this is. I think that the reason for a homicide is of little concern to the police itself, but more so to the public attorneys (Officier van Justitie). As the police departments provide the CBS with data and not the public attorneys office (Openbaar Ministerie). I would hope that if a homicide is successfully prosecuted by the public attorney, the reason (or at least a strong suspicion) for the homicide is established. If for 50%+ homicides the reason unknown remains, I cannot see how policymakers would be able to adjust police practices to combat homicides. Obviously, a certain number of homicides will remain, such as crime-passionel.

What also needs to be taken into account is the quality of the forensic doctor (schouwarts), which is heavily questioned, as well as how many forensic autopsies are performed. In the latter case we know that less and less are performed by the Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI) (340 in 2012), a subsidiary of the Department of Justice, the same department is in charge of the national police and the public attorney’s office (College van Procureurs Generaal). It would therefore not be surprising to learn that less and less homicides happen in the Netherlands. One such explanation would be that homicides that happened are mislabeled as suicides. This explanation is bit suspect, as it puts very little trust in the capabilities of the authorities.

Unnatural deaths on the rise

The death rate in the Netherlands is very predictable. Between 1969 and 2013 (blue line in Figure 5) around 0.83% of the population dies annually. It would therefore be natural to assume that the number of suicides per 100,000 inhabitants is an accurate representation and to a certain level this is true. This approach does assume that other factors that could influence the number of suicides remain the same. You have to take into consideration how suicides are determined. When a person is found dead which sparks a police investigation, who require a forensic doctor (schouwarts) to arrive on the scene to help close a case of suicide. In most cases the public attorney will show little to no interest in considering opening a criminal case if the police already suspects a suicide. Suicide is not a criminal act, so it is not their business. Any statistical information will come directly from the police departments, as we have seen above. This also means that specific data will be missing.

One type of data should be readily available and that is how many people die an unnatural death. With an unnatural death I mean any suicide, homicide, and accident/misfortune. Below you can see the red line representing the relative number of unnatural deaths, with in black the trend line (Figure 5). An obvious increase in unnatural death can be observed in the Netherlands between 1996 and 2011. It is even more surprising when taking into account that crime has been on a continuous decline for many years now.

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Figure 5. How many people died in the Netherlands between 1969 and 2013 (blue) and how many of those who died died of unnatural causes (homicide, suicide, or accident) between 1996-2011 (for which data is available) in red. In black the trend line is shown for both the blue and red lines.

Maybe the increase in suicide can explain the increase in unnatural deaths? The suicide rate in the Netherlands went from 8.0 per 100,000 in 1970 to 11.0 per 100,000 in 2013. Yet, the relative suicide rate within the unnatural deaths remains very stable (~30%; Figure 6). The increase of unnatural death cannot be explained by the increase in suicide. If anything, the increase in suicide resembles the increase in unnatural deaths.

We do see two categories show a relative increase within the unnatural deaths (accidents at home and unknown). The unknown category is very troublesome. First, the unknown group could be indicative of two things: a) police departments are not reporting certain type of information any longer, as might be the case for homicides (Figure 3B1-3) or b) the cause of unnatural death is indeed unknown. If the latter is the true it is important to learn why the police is unable to determine the cause of ~10% unnatural deaths in the Netherlands.

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Figure 6. How people died of unnatural causes between 1996 and 2011 in the Netherlands.

On a positive note, less people die due to traffic accidents. In order to reduce the number of traffic deaths the public attorneys office (Openbaar Ministerie) assigned a specialized public attorney Koos Spee. Whether or not Spee was responsible for the drastic reduction, the reduction also came as car became safer due to better tires, electronic driver aids, improved chassis, and more airbags. Either way, the reduction in traffic deaths is welcomed by many.

Deadly accidents in the private sphere: nursing homes are getting deadlier in the Netherlands.

Accidents in the private sphere (home in Figure 6) exclude all deaths from occupational, traffic, or sports deaths. For instance people too often underestimate how dangerous their homes are. Usually parents do try to reduce the risk of kids falling or drowning or being electrocuted by accident. Yet, for anyone older than 5 years of age the dangers are waved away. In 1996 about 37% (1999/5309) of all unnatural deaths were a result for an accident at home, whereas this number increased to over 48% in 2011 (2821/5844). It is a serious problem and the most common cause of unnatural deaths. A closer look (Figure 7) reveals that especially elderly die a unnatural death due to accidents (Figure 7A). In ~80% of the cases people die as a result of a fall (Figure 7B).

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Figure 7. What is known about unnatural causes of death in the Netherlands that happen in the private sphere between 1996-2011. A) Age distribution per year. B) Cause of death. C) If known, what were people doing. D) Where were these people.

In 1996 very few cases were reported to have died from an accident in a nursing home or hospital, but in 2011 over 20% of the accidental deaths in the private sphere happened in nursing homes and hospitals. As about 80% of these accidental deaths result from a fall it can be safely assumed that deaths during a medical procedure, as you might expect to occur in a hospital, are not part of this statistic. This of course ignores the problem that Dutch hospitals are very lacks in keeping statistics about deaths during a medical procedures. Therefore nursing homes become the site of interest to account for the steep increase in accidental deaths in the private sphere. In the past, problems in the quality of care in nursing homes have become apparent. A shortage of people, a shortage of qualified nurses, and a byzantine bureaucratic oversight with all its excess. This makes the quality of care a structural problem that in part manifests itself in elderly falling and dying.

All taken together a murky picture emerges. The absolute numbers of suicide might on the rise, its contribution to all unnatural deaths in the Netherlands remain very predictable: about 30%. I can therefore only conclude that suicide is not on the increase in the Netherlands, but unnatural deaths are on the increase. The most prominent contributor appears to be nursing homes, maybe as a result from ever decreasing nursing quality.

All sources are embedded in hyperlinks and figures were made in excel.

When generalizations miss their mark. Questioning suicide does not equal unable to accept suicide.

Every now and then you read an opinion piece that make your blood pressure rise. Some are aggravating because of their perceived social injustice or political corruptness. Some are just plain ridiculous. The ones that hurt are the opinions that hit close to home. When someone make derogatory comments about families who doubt the conclusion of suicide as argued by the police and public attorney. It is hard to not take them personally.

Today, December 8th, marks the 5th anniversary of my sister’s death. In a month or so we’ll learn how the public attorney will proceed with Eline’s case after their review.

Allow me to start a short rant.

Far too often the argument is made that people like me, simply cannot accept that their loved took their own lives. Sure you can be disappointed by people who are just happy to be uncritical about the authorities, but being disappointed is not the same as being aggravated. People like Mick van Wely or Hendrik-Jan Korterink, two prominent crime journalists in the Netherlands, have focalized on various occasions that people, like myself, just cannot accept the fact that e.g. Eline committed suicide. They use their authority as a crime journalist to make their point. It is not that a journalist doesn’t take your story seriously. Every journalist has to make up their own mind which story to break and which one to leave on the shelf. That is part of their business. It is not that a journalist lacks a willingness to question the field of their choice. They are human after all, even when they display signs of hypocrisy. I understand that. It is that a journalist already claims to know the crux of a story before (s)he has bothered to read up on it and waves away any claim made by families as proof that they simply cannot accept the suicide of their loved ones. It is hard to consider this disdain as part of an expected repertoire of a professional journalist. This disdain hurts. Maybe it is just me who was raised with the thought that a journalist’s job is to question and criticize the ruling powers. If I have to believe journalists such as Mick van Wely and Hendrik-Jan Korterink, this is not the case. At least when it comes to families questioning suicide by their loved ones because we are told by the police and public attorney that is what happened. That evidence to support the claim by the police and public attorney are often hidden away from families such as myself doesn’t seem to perturb these people. The authorities have spoken. So be it.

Maybe I haven’t talked enough with psychiatrists about suicides and other mental diseases whereas Van Wely and Korterink have. Maybe they are just more up to date about the latest research and clinical findings. For instance, Van Wely interviewed the controversial and very vocal psychiatrist Bram Bakker. I wouldn’t be surprised if both Van Wely and Korterink have talked to various Dutch forensic psychiatrists (short intro), something I haven’t, that is to say I haven’t spoken with Dutch psychiatrists.

This is not to say that they don’t have criticisms about the Dutch legal system. In a recent article Chris Klomp articulated that a new law that would allow victims or families of victims gain substantial rights during the trial to argue how the crime affected their lives and any comments they may have towards the suspect. Klomp argues that the position of the suspect is already very precarious as the entire legal proceedings are set up against him/her. A stance I agree with. Just how the court is physically set-up works against the suspect’s anticipated guilt. Also, another recent law that allows for the public attorney to prosecute a suspect for minor crimes proofs that the public attorney punishes harsher than judges. The police frequently records conversations between lawyers and their clients because they use rooms that are also used to interrogate people. The public has to trust the police that they won’t listen to these recordings. Just to mention a few points where the position of suspects is in distress. Klomp goes further than this. He goes to say that the foundation of the Dutch legal system is at risk with this newly proposed law. Maybe he is right. But this argument stands in contrast to his observation that suspects have to prove their innocence in court, more so than the public attorney has to prove their guilt. This discordance would argue that a change in the legal system would be warranted to guarantee a fair trial. In his book, Richard Korver, a Dutch lawyer, suggests that it might be worth to have a two-step trial. First the guilt is determined and next the punishment. During the latter part the victim could have a more pronounced role, whereas in the first one, it really comes down to did anyone break the law. To me this seems like a very reasonable suggestion.

Let’s not forget that a crime always has three parties: a victim (often known), a perpetrator (if all goes well the suspect at trial), and the law (represented by the public attorney). The former party already suffers from a cultural disdain in the Netherlands. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is a remnant of the calvinistic rhetoric that still strongly resonates. Victims are too frequently asked why they allowed themselves to be in a position where they could become a victim of a crime (think of The Rape of Mr. Smith by Borkenhagen). This leaves the suspect as a soul that needs to be saved. The task for the latter party is to present a case and execute upon conviction. The entire trial is focussed on the alleged crime and the person of the suspect. Ergo psychiatric evaluation are commonly requested. Focussing on the person of the suspect. At the end of his article Klomp does mention that a role for victims would be appropriate, but it is unclear what kind of a role he envisions victims would have. Currently, the law allows for victims of serious crimes to express to the court how the crime impacted their lives. A right not often used.

To suggest that I cannot accept suicides is merely laughable. A few months ago I lost a dear friend to suicide. She hung herself after fighting bipolar disorder for many many years. A battle she lost. She is not the first person I know who has committed suicide. This is not to say that I will go along with statements such as “you have to accept their personal choice to end their lives.” A remark I hear and read far too often. These remarks display a gross naïvity with regards to people suffering from pervasive suicidal thoughts. I don’t have them myself or recall that I ever had them, but I do know people who suffer from such thoughts. They do not think rationally anymore. Ask yourself: how many people with pervasive suicidal thoughts would fight for their lives if their lives were imminently at stake? How many of these suicidal people would avert a car-accident-to-happen by slamming the brakes or steering out of danger such as a crossing deer? How many of these suicidal people would run out of a burning house to save their own lives if they wake up to a sudden fire? How many of these suicidal people would jump back from a cliff when all of a sudden a few rocks under their feet let go and fall in the ravine? How many of these suicidal people would give up their wallet when someone tries to rob them at gunpoint?

If all it is that suicidal people want is to do is die, why would they avert imminent death? It is not a matter of making a personal choice. People who suffer from pervasive suicidal thoughts, for whatever underlying reason, do not think rationally. Treating their final action (a successful suicide attempt) as a rationally made decision is ignorant at every level imaginable.

All in all, mental health still suffers from extremely debilitating stigma, but I’ll get to this subject in a later post. The problem of this debilitating stigma is universally pervasive in our society. That people such as Van Wely and Korterink, who devoted their lives to being a crime journalist, simply accept a judgement call by the police and public attorney as if it was as simple as 1 + 1 = 2. No critical note to found, because people like me are too weak to accept the simple equation presented to us. Eline committed suicide because we, the police, say so. Why would you question us? Because she stabbed herself three time in her heart while at arm’s length of her boyfriend and she subsequently ran out of their house? Of course that is a normal suicide for anyone who is psychotic and the boyfriend said she was psychotic. Again, why question us? Many people, including journalist, far too often don’t. Treating people who do with disdain is not only hurtful, it is showing pride in their own ignorance. Status quo is not to be touched. How dare I.

I’ll leave my rant at this. I’ve probably already said too much. I’ve probably already been too emotional.

Iris van den Hooff’s suicide seems less likely following autopsy

A short while back René Diekstra argued that for any death where suicide is suspected but a small amount of doubt might exist, a forensic autopsy would be useful in determining cause of death. He explicitly argued that cause of death (homicide, suicide, accident, or natural causes) cannot be determined by method of dying (e.g. hanging, stabbing, shooting, etc.).

On July 6th earlier this year, Iris van den Hooff was found hanging in her apartment in Groningen. Within 24 hours the police and the public attorney conclude that Iris committed suicide. Yet neighbours heard a fight in her apartment and Iris had been received threatening notes. This made Iris’ family suspicious of her alleged suicide.

The public attorney refused to consider reopening the case, so Iris’ family with their lawyer Richard Korver to the mayor to request her body be exhumed for a forensic autopsy. Something the police and the public attorney did not deem necessary as it was “just” a suicide and therefore not a matter for further criminal investigation. The mayor granted the family the rights to exhume her.

Today Richard Korver revealed that the forensic autopsy does not support the conclusion of suicide. He does suspect a homicide.The public attorney still does not see any reason to reopen the case. To force the public attorney to properly investigate Iris’ death, Korver started an article 12-procedure: a request to the court to order the public attorney to investigate the case. This is the only legal route someone has in the Netherlands to reopen/start an investigation. This option is not cheap (cost for lawyers, court, forensic expert, etc.) which means that most people won’t be able to fight a conclusion of the police and public attorney. Iris’ friends and family therefore have started a fundraiser.

Update 2014.11.26 – There are indications crucial evidence might have already been destroyed by the police and public attorney, including her ripped clothes and dog leash she was found with.