Suspect identified 20 years after Dutch boy's murder; still at large

JoS B. - suspect in Nicky Verstappen's murder
JoS B. - suspect in Nicky Verstappen's murderPhoto: Politie

Twenty years after the murder of 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen in Brunssummerheide, the Dutch authorities managed to identify a suspect. The suspect is 55-year-old Jos B. from Simpelveld. The police do not know where he is at this time, and placed him on the national wanted list on Wednesday. An European arrest warrant was also issued for the man, according to's live blog of the press conference on this breakthrough in Maastricht on Wednesday.

B. lived in Simpelveld and was active in scouting and camping in the wild. He organized trips throughout Europe, and therefore regularly traveled himself. In October last year he left to go abroad. He told his family that he was going on a hiking tour through the Vosges mountains in France, and hasn't been seen since. His family reported him missing.

According to the Public Prosecutor, there are no indications that the man is no longer alive. "We assume that the man is in hiding", the Prosecutor said at the press conference. "We hope that people saw him somewhere in Europe or have his telephone number, for example."  The police think he may be hiding in a forest in the Vosges mountains. Searches were made in the mountains for B., but so far nothing has been found. 

The 55-year-old man did not give a DNA sample for a massive DNA kinship investigation in this case, though he told his family that he intended to do so when he returned from his trip. The police still managed to match DNA traces found on Nicky's pajamas in 1998 to him, because some of B.'s relatives gave a sample for the kinship investigation. The DNA investigation started in the same month that B. disappeared. According to the police, it does not seem that B. knew Nicky or his family.

Nicky Verstappen disappeared in the night of 9 to 10 August 1998 while on summer camp in Brunssummerheide in Limburg. His body was found near the camp the next day. On August 12th that year, B. was stopped in the area by members of the Koninklijke Marechaussee - a policing force that works as part of the Dutch military. They took his details and he was twice questioned as a witness. "At that time the circumstances and facts did not indicate that this man was anything more than a passerby", the Limburg police said on Twitter. 

Nicky's parents were told that a suspect was identified early in June, but asked to keep it quiet in the interest of the investigation. An European arrest warrant was issued for the suspect on July 12th. The police are now focused on finding this man. "This is not the end of our investigation, but the start of the criminal investigation", the police said at the press conference. They call on the public's help to track this man down. 

Jos B. is 1.8 meters tall. He has brown hair, which may be gray by now, and large ears, according to the police description.