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Arrest of Dutch man in Barcelona could solve one of Holland’s most infamous cases

After a DNA match was found, officers detained Jos Brech on suspicion of the sexual abuse and murder of 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen in 1998

Nicky Verstappen
Jos Brech is detained by the police on Sunday.

The arrest of 55-year-old Dutch national Jos Brech in Barcelona on Sunday could see the most famous unsolved case in Holland brought to a conclusion.

In 1998, 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen was taken from the tent where he was sleeping during a summer camp in Limburg, in the south of Holland. He was sexually abused and his body was found the following day. His family have vowed not to let the crime be forgotten, and the police got a new lead this year after taking DNA samples from 15,000 people in search of a suspect. A match was found with a relative of Brech, who had been missing since April.

Verstappen was taken from the tent where he was sleeping and  sexually abused. His body was found the following day

The Spanish police located the man close to the town of Castellterçol, around 50 kilometers from Barcelona, “in a tent next to a house that was used as a kind of commune,” they explained on Monday. Brech was located after a Dutch man recognized him from photos made public by the police in Holland last week. They had spoken several times, and he had no doubt that it was him, officers explained. He was arrested when he went to chop wood, and has since been placed in custody without bail, and has accepted his extradition to Holland.

Victim Nicky Verstappen.
Victim Nicky Verstappen.

Brech, who is an expert at survival in hostile environments, has lived in a number of different forests since he went missing. His last known residence was a house in Los Vosgos, France. He was not located there, but detectives found his belongings and found a DNA match.

Brech was interviewed by the police in 1985 for an alleged sexual assault, but the case went no further. It has now been revealed that he has a history of abusing children. Shortly after the death of Nicky Verstappen, he was seen near where the body was found.

Three years later, Brech admitted that he had been treated “for having committed sexual abuses.” In 2002, he left the Boy Scouts, where he had been working. He also worked in a kindergarten.

Photo of the suspect released by the Dutch police.
Photo of the suspect released by the Dutch police.

The Nicky Verstappen case has been kept in the headlines thanks to the work of Peter R. Vries, a Dutch reporter specializing in unsolved cases, and who regularly mentioned the crime on his TV show. “Without his help, we never would have got this far,” the victim’s mother said. “He has been a huge support for us and he has always been there, even during vacations.”

The Dutch police have requested that their Spanish colleagues hand over the suspect.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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