Over 200 tips on 1998 murder suspect's whereabouts

JoS B. - suspect in Nicky Verstappen's murder
JoS B. - suspect in Nicky Verstappen's murder. (Photo: Politie)

The police received over 200 tips about the possible whereabouts of Jos B., the 55-year-old man suspected of murdering 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen in Brunssummerheide in 1998, Limburg police chief Ingrid Schafer-Poels said on Laat op één. "Most are about his possible whereabouts, or people who think they saw him. We are going to investigate them all urgently."

On Wednesday the police revealed that after 20 years they finally have a suspect in Nicky's murder, though they don't know where he is. B. left to travel abroad in October last year, the same month as a large DNA kinship investigation started in this cold case. B. told his family he was going on a hiking tour in the Vosges Mountains in France. His last gave a sign of life in February, according to RTL Nieuws. 

At the time of Nicky's death, B. was staying with his mother in Simpelveld. He came into the picture as a suspect when he did not volunteer to give a DNA sample for the kinship investigation and his family reported him missing. Some of his family members did participate in the kinship investigation, bringing the police closer to the suspect. Some of his belongings were sent to forensic institute NFI, and DNA took from them were matched with DNA traces found on Nicky in 1998. 

B. was active in scouting and worked at a playgroup in the past, according to RTL. He is experienced in bushcraft, which means he knows how to survive in the wild. The police think he may be hiding in the Vosges Mountains in France.

Erik van 't Padje, an old friend who knows B. from the world of bushcrafting, helped the police search for B. in the spring. On Wednesday he wrote a Facebook post in which he apologized to friends and family for keeping this secret and said he is very disappointed in B. 

"How painful and enormously difficult, I was not allowed to say anything about it", Van 't Padje wrote, adding that he signed a confidentiality agreement. "A little comment or hint could put the investigation in great jeopardy. That is something I absolutely did not want. It is too important for Nicky Verstappen's parents to finally get answers and that Jos is found so that he can be questioned." 

He is very disappointed in B. "It hurts me a lot that this 'friend' apparently carries a gruesome secret with him. A secret that I had not wanted to be involved in in any way. Over the past months I often wished that I had never met him, but unfortunately it does not work like that in life." He hopes that B. will turn himself in to the police. "So that Nicky's parents finally get peace and get answers. They've been waiting for 20 years and lived in great uncertainty in that time. That has to come to an end."