Jos de G. guilty of rape, not murder in '95 death of Nicole van den Hurk

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Family members left the courtroom sobbing as a judge in Den Bosch acquitted a man -repeatedly accused of sexual offences- of manslaughter in the 1995 death of teen Nicole van den Hurk. The not-guilty verdict was read shortly after the court convicted him of rape in the attack on the victim. The crime remained an open cold case until a DNA match led to the arrest of Jos de G. in 2014.

De G. was sentenced to five years in prison for the rape conviction. The heavy media attention in the case was not an influence on the sentence. Prosecutors had called for a 14-year sentence assuming a conviction of both rape and manslaughter.

After sitting in custody for two years following his arrest, De G. is supposed to remain in prison for another three years. Instead, De G. could get early release for good behaviour. He also will not be sent to a psychiatric prison ward, where detention can be extended until a prisoner is clinically determined to be fit to re-enter society, according to Sebastiaan Quekel, a journalist for Omroep Brabant.

"Applause guys!" Van den Hurk's stepmother, Jolanda van der Weijden, shouted in court. "What if this would happen to your children? This is simply unbelievable!" she said, according to a reporter's account from the courtroom. "I've said enough," she exclaimed as she was led out by police.

In pronouncing the conviction, the panel of judges said it was unanimous in declaring that the defendant raped Van den Hurk. They found De G.'s version of events, and his theories about the incident, as lacking credibility. However, they said, the presence of the suspect's DNA is not enough to convict him for culpability in her death, an Eindhovens Dagblad reporter said from the courtroom, which was flled with Van den Hurk's surviving family, and many members of the media.

The trace evidence was the only physical evidence in the case, the judges said. Since the DNA found in the case matched De G., but also Van den Hurk's boyfriend as well as a third unknown man, the court said it had no choice but to consider the possibility the unknown person was in some way involved in the murder.

"We regret that the relatives have no clarity on what happened after [the] rape," Quekel said in quoting the court.

The discovery of Jos de G.'s sperm on Van den Hurk's clothing and jacket indicated rape, the court said after determining that the victim and defendant did not know each other leading up to the day of the murder. The court rejected a claim by De G., who was 28 at the time of the incident, that he was promiscuous, and that if his sperm was found on Van den Hurk's body it was due to rather anonymous, consensual sex.

A key piece of disputed evidence in the case, DNA trace material found at the scene of the crime and on the teenaged victim's body, definitely came from the defendant, the court said in reference to sperm found on Van den Hurk's clothing and jacket. These traces were studied by multiple experts, including the Netherlands Forensic Institute and an institute from New Zealand. The conclusion was it was very likely that one of the DNA traces found belongs to De G.

Suspect Jos de G. faced charges of rape and manslaughter. He was not in court to hear the verdict against him, Quekel said. "I don't want to be there", he said during a previous hearing. The Public Prosecutor demanded 14 years in prison against him. 

Then 15-year-old Nicole van den Hurk disappeared on Friday, October 6th, 1995 while traveling between her grandmother's house and her part time job at a shopping center in Eindhoven.

A day earlier she complained to an aunt that an unknown man had harassed her on her way home, the court said in delivering its verdict. Her body was found about a month and a half later in the woods between Mierlo and Lierop. She had been raped and murdered. 

De G. was arrested in January 2014 and has been in custody since. He always maintained that he had nothing to do with Nicole's rape or murder. "I can not take responsibility for something I did not do." he said during a previous hearing. At one point he did acknowledge that he may have had sex with the 15-year-old girl, but can't remember it. He emphasized that the sex was consensual if it happened. 

The verdict in this trial was expected last year, but the trial was postponed when two new witnesses came forward. Both witnesses were in a psychiatric institution with De G. They both claim that De G. told them about murdering a girl they believe was Nicole van den Hurk. The new statements were eventually not included in the evidence against De G., though the Public Prosecutor did state that he believed them.

On Sunday Nicole's father Ad van den Hurk called De G. a monster on Omroep Brabant program Kraak. "This is not a man, but a terible creature." He made similar statements when given a chance to speak in court during an earlier hearing.