Rotterdam woman calls for justice after father's death in police custody

Egbert Uitenwerf, died in police custody in Rotterdam on 23 Nov 2016
Egbert Uitenwerf, died in police custody in Rotterdam on 23 Nov 2016Chula Elisabeth Taylor Nails / Facebook

On November 23rd a 58-year-old Rotterdam man died in a police cell shortly after he was arrested. His daughter decided to share her side of the story on Facebook, calling for justice for her father and their family.

According to a Public Prosecutor announcement on Thursday, November 24th, the Rotterdam man was arrested on Wednesday afternoon in Rotterdam-Noord. He resisted arrest and a police dog was deployed, which bit the man. At the police station on Doelwater the man became ill. Police officers and paramedics tried to resuscitate the man, but it was to no avail. He died at the station.

On Facebook daughter Chula Elisabeth Taylor writes that she and her mother had to find out about the police dog biting her father, Egbert Uitenwerf, on television the day after his death. Officers who came to inform them about the death only said that he died after being arrested. They told her the police got a report of a mentally disturbed man shouting on the street. They forced their way into his house and took him to a cell where he died. When she called the Rijksrecherche - the department that handles internal investigations at the police - to find out what was going on, she was told that there was no further information. 

Two days later she was called to go identify her father, Taylor writes. They were told that he was bitten by a police dog and warned about what he would look like when they saw the body - he had a hole under his eye and the back of his head. And stitches where samples were taken, Taylor writes. On November 29th Taylor was informed that her father's brain had been removed for testing.

Taylor eventually gave up on getting information from the Rijksrecherche. She hired a lawyer to help her and went to her father's neighborhood to find out from neighbors what really happened. She found two boys who filmed the arrest. According to her, the video shows her father being put in the van and his legs - which were bitten to shreds by the dog - pressed against him so the door can be closed. He did not even have the strength to object, she writes. 

"The so-called dog bite is just sickening! A disturbed person can not be treated like that! Such people you treat psychologically!" Taylor writes on Facebook. ""The reason I'm on the internet with the story and the pictures is because I want to show the seriousness of the situation. The impact of the choices these officers made that evening."

Taylor finds it unbelievable that the police used a dog against an unstable man, and that the left his family with uncertainty and miscommunication. "The police have power in our country, but this power is meant to protect citizens and not to cover themselves if a citizen has questions or needs help. I have a question; how did it go this far and why did my father die in a cell? He should clearly have gone to a medical facility. I want clarity and justice."

Taylor also set up a crowd funding campaign for her father's funeral costs. "My father died on 23 November 2016 in the hands of the police. Only when the reports etc. are finished will I hear whether there will be compensation for my father's death... but that is unfortunately too late because mostly such an investigation takes 8 weeks." she writes on the page. 

The family's plight reached the attention of political party NIDA Rotterdam, who called on the city's mayor for clarity. "Their story is particularly painful, horrifying and raises more questions than there already were", party leader Nourdin El Ouali said in a statement on the party's website. "NIDA will do everything possible to get all the necessary information and let justice prevail."

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