By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (April 23rd 2011)
The Dutch criminal justice has a good reputation abroad. Even activists, when told about the now notorious Lynette White Inquiry as the battle to free the Cardiff Three was nearing its conclusion in 1992, defended it. They said that it was impossible for justice to miscarry in the Netherlands as badly as it had in the Lynette White Inquiry for example.
Their outrage was limited to a peace activist who had been sentenced to two weeks imprisonment for daubing graffiti in an American base after breaking into it. They insisted that this was sentencing him twice for the same crime and they were outraged about it.
This, they insisted, was the worst miscarriage of justice in the Netherlands at that time. But they were wrong. The Dutch system was capable of miscarrying as badly as it had in Britain – worse even.
On June 22nd 2000 ten-year-old Nienke Kleiss was raped and murdered in Beatrix Park in the small town of Schiedam, which is within easy commuting distance of Rotterdam. She fought hard for her life and left vital clues to identify the perpetrator, but her efforts were wasted by police and the Dutch criminal justice system for four years as justice miscarried twice.
Her eleven-year-old friend, Maikel Willebrand, with whom she had been playing, was also viciously stabbed at the same time by Wik Haalmeijer. Willebrand survived by playing dead only to be absurdly accused of having inflicted the injuries on himself to cover up his crime – the attack on Kleiss. It was an utterly ludicrous allegation and an unconscionable way to treat a child who had been the victim of a vicious attack.
DNA testing would play a large part in this inquiry. It quickly proved that Willebrand had been telling the truth that he had been attacked himself and had played no part in the rape or murder of Kleiss, but police were still not prepared to listen to him at all.
They only moved on from Willebrand when they heard about a coincidence regarding the man who then became their new prime suspect Kees Borsboom – the man who had helped Willebrand after the crimes by reporting it to the police. And even then they would not accept Willebrand’s account because the boy would not turn on the man who had helped him.
DNA expert Richard Eikelenboom, then working for the Netherlands Forensic Institute (FSI) developed the DNA protocols that were used in the Schiedammer Park case. He knew that Low Template DNA had produced important results, quickly realising that both Willebrand and Borsboom had nothing to do with the crimes, but he was not the Reporting Officer and Ate Kloosterman’s report was very selective.
Kloosterman told the judge that the ‘foreign’ DNA results on Kleiss’ shoe and fingernails had been deposited by a child at her school. Unknown to the court there were compelling reasons to reject that explanation. Kleiss had been playing in water just before she was attacked and the surviving victim had told police that she had scratched her assailant – time would tell that she had.
The results on the shoe and elsewhere were also the same – it would have required an incredible coincidence for all of those alleles to have been deposited at various locations innocently, but Kloosterman knew the significance of the results well or should have done. It was obvious that they had been deposited by one person and not by Kleiss’ classmates. They had the DNA of the real perpetrator – enough to eliminate the entirely innocent Borsboom, but selective disclosure prevented that from happening.