Relatives call Dutch police to pay attention to unsolved murders

Forensic investigation in a home (Stock photo: Politie) police. (Forensic investigation in a home (Stock photo: Politie))

Relatives of unsolved murders in the Netherlands started a petition calling on the government to hire more detectives so that the police can pay more attention to these cold cases. The petition asks the government for a "stronger and more convincing approach" to cold cases and "more well-equipped police teams", NOS reports.

The Netherlands counts around a thousand murder cases that haven't been solved. There are also around 800 other serious violent crimes in which no arrests were made. 

"We have more than a thousand unsolved murders in the Netherlands, and they do not receive the attention they deserve", initiator Wicky van der Meijs, whose father was murdered in 2002, said to NOS. "As a result, a thousand perpetrators walk around freely. That creates fear and a feeling of injustice in relatives."

The reason for the petition is a recent breakthrough and the arrest of suspect Jos B. in the case surrounding the murder of 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen in Brunsummerheide in 1998. "Relatives of cold cases were very happy with this", Van der Meijs said. "But after that, there was also pain and longing that there is still no perpetrator in their case. There are also relatives who feel that their case was barely looked at."

She pointed out that some police units in the Netherlands spend more time on cold cases than others. "That is not fair. It should not be the case that if someone died in Noord-Nederland, their case receives less attention than in Oost-Nederland."

Van der Meijs's father, 72-year-old Martien van der Meijs, was stabbed to death while walking his dog in Hilversum in 2002. No perpetrator was ever found. "You can never get closure, as long as a perpetrator is still walking around. I still think of people: are you maybe the murderer of my father?"

Aart Garssen, who is in charge of cold cases at the police, understands the relatives' plea, he said to NOS. "But we have to make choices between many other forms of crime and that is incredibly complicated. We have more cases than the police can handle."

He acknowledged that the number of cold case investigators varies per region. According to Garssen, the deployment depends on how promising the cold case is, and how the mayors and Public Prosecutor can divide the scarce capacity. "If there are a lot of assassinations in Amsterdam, then I understand that you pay more attention to that than to cold cases." He added that to solve more cold cases, it is essential that the police make use of new technology, like artificial intelligence.

The Dutch police are currently protesting for a better collective bargaining agreement with various labor actions over the past weeks. One of the police unions' main concerns is that a lack of capacity means that police officers can't do all their duties properly.