Andy van den Hurk on his sister's 1995 murder
Upon hearing the news that a suspect in Nicole van den Hurk's murder was arrested nearly 20 years after the crime, her stepbrother was cautious to show any happiness about the arrest, or even optimism that police caught the right guy.
"My initial reaction was 'seeing is believing,'" Andy van den Hurk said.
In an email exchange with the NL Times, Van den Hurk writes surprisingly measured words considering the horrific nature of a crime in which he was once considered a suspect. Without any clear motive in the murder, the intense police investigation became focused on Nicole's family. The attention and case history explains why Van den Hurk's first instinct is to doubt the connection police made between evidence recovered two decades ago and DNA of the suspect Jos de G.
"But I also have to accept that the police wouldn't arrest someone without clear reasons and that this would have been considered in depth at the police as they had the match for a few months," he said.
In fact, over the last week, Andy van den Hurk has come to believe that police have the right person considering the DNA evidence, and the criminal history of Jos de G., who has been convicted of rape several times in the past.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the police has the right one in custody," he says. Van den Hurk prefers to refer to De G. as "it" and "the one," because he refuses to humanize the person alleged to have ended his stepsister's life.
Nicole was killed in October 6, 1995, after leaving her grandmother's home just outside of Eindhoven by bicycle on her way to work. Officers found her abandoned bicycle that day, and her missing bag two weeks later. Her body was found the following month between Mierlo and Lierop, not even ten kilometers away from the house.
Police say the evidence at the scene suggested her death was not an accident, but rather the result of a violent crime.
Andy van den Hurk has been in police custody twice for the crime, most recently in 2011 following a statement on his Facebook page the Dutch press called a "confession."
"The only misconception I want to clear up is that I never confessed. I come [sic] forward with new information," he says. "Some media covered this exactly as it was, other media already convicted me..." he continues.
"That's why I remain in my believe [sic] that no man is guilty until proven."
Despite having been held in custody, he points out that the police have their own method, "and in the end, if this is the guy, who am I to complain about missing a few days out of my life."
The 46-year-old Jos de G., of Valkenswaard, has been convicted three times for rape, serving various sentences including prison time and court-ordered detention in a psychiatric facility. His convictions in 1999 and 2001 gave police the opportunity to try and match his DNA to other cold cases. He was then charged for a previously-unsolved rape from 1987.
A psychological evaluation conducted during the 2001 court case against him led the appointed psychiatrist to call Jos de G. “a vessel overflowing with hate,” with the potential to repeat his crimes, “if not adequately addressed.”
Andy van den Hurk sounds grateful to have Jos de G. off the street, even at the cost of his own reputation. "So I have no qualms at all with the police, I commend them on their 'not letting go' attitude!"
Where Van den Hurk's tone changes is when writing about his relationship with his father, Ad, who was also long considered a suspect in Nicole's death. Andy makes it clear the bond between the two has been strained substantially over the years, and for that reason he decided to be patient in contacting his father about Jos de G.'s arrest. "Let's just say that I'm glad that we both know that we can look each other straight in the eye. Again. As I used to have quite a strong relationship with my dad. Only time can tell."
For now, Andy van den Hurk describes himself as "relieved," and will keep moving forward with his life. He has moved on and relocated to England, though still holding on to the memory of Nicole, even periodically posting memorials to her on his Facebook wall.
"Of course I hope that this is finally the end and that my sister finds the rest she deserves. And that it can send out a clear message to anyone who think they can act as a monster and get away with it."