Belgian tourist mistaken for 1998 murder suspect

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

A man from Belgium was checked in the Vosges mountains in France on Thursday after Dutch police officers mistook him for Jos B., the man suspected of murdering 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen in 1998, the Limburg police confirmed to

The Belgian man was not arrested as some media sources reported, only checked to confirm his identity, the Limburg police said.

The Dutch officers, who are on holiday in France, took photos and videos of the man when they noticed him and sent it to colleagues in the Netherlands. They in turn called the French authorities. The man was found and checked. He did indeed show "some resemblance" to the suspect, but definitely was not him. 

"The officers were alert and acted well by not approaching him themselves", the police said to the newspaper. "This time it wasn't him, but who knows, maybe next time it is."

On Wednesday the Public Prosecutor announced that the 55-year-old man was identified as a suspect in Nicky Verstappen's murder. B.'s DNA matched traces found on the 11-year-old boy in 1998. The man from Simpelveld did not participate in a large DNA kinship investigation in this case, but members of his family did. The police since received hundreds of tips about his possible whereabouts

B. left the country to go on a hiking tour in October 2017, the same month in which the DNA kinship investigation started. His family reported him missing in April. The last contact they had with him was in February. B. was active at scouting clubs and organized nature tours in Europe. He is experienced in bushcraft, which means he knows how to survive in the wild.

After the press conference on Wednesday, neighbors of B.'s mother told journalists that B. was seen at her house in April this year. The police call on these neighbors to come forward and make a statement. 

On Thursday the police also looked into a newspaper article from 1985 in the Limburgs Dagblad. The article states that a man from Simpleveld confessed to the police that he sexually abused two 10-year-old boys who participated in a scavenger hunt. A year earlier the same man sexually abused two underage boys in Wijlre, according to the article. 

There were suspicions that the man in this article may be B.. But the investigation into the article provided no new leads for the Nicky Verstappen case, NOS reports. 

The Public Prosecutor announced on Wednesday that B. was a suspect in a sex crime in 1985. The police could give no further details, because the file was largely destroyed. The only thing the police could say is that the case was dismissed. 

Nicky Verstappen, murdered at age 11 in Brunssum in August 1998 Politie