Utrecht shooting suspect had no link to victims; Terrorism still suspected

Police at the scene of Gokmen T.'s arrest on Oudenoord in Utrecht, 18 March 2019
Police at the scene of Gokmen T.'s arrest on Oudenoord in Utrecht, 18 March 2019Photo: @maxuitutrecht / Twitter

So far the investigation into a shooting on 24 Oktoberlaan in Utrecht on Monday revealed no links between suspected gunman 37-year-old Gokmen T. and the victims, the Public Prosecutor said in a statement on Tuesday. Three people were killed and multiple injured, three of whom seriously, in the shooting on a tram on Monday morning.

According to the Prosecutor, the three people who were killed are a 19-year-old woman from Vianen, and two men from Utrecht, aged 49 and 28. Dutch media already identified two of the victims as Roos Verschuur and Rinke Terpstra. The identity of the third victim is not yet known. The three people who sustained serious injuries are a 20-year-old woman from Utrecht, a 74-year-old man from De Meern, and a 21-year-old woman from Nieuwegein.

Suspected gunman Gokem T. was arrested in a house on Oudenoord in Utrecht on Monday afternoon after a long manhunt. According to the Prosecutor, a firearm was found during his arrest. Two other suspects, two men from Utrecht aged 23 and 27, were also arrested. The police are investigating whether they were involved in the shooting, the Public Prosecutor said. All three suspects are still in custody for further investigation.

The police and Public Prosecutor are still investigating the motive for the shooting. "So far, a terrorist motive is seriously taken into account." According to the Prosecutor, this is because of a letter found in the getaway car, and the nature of the shooting. Exactly what the letter contained, is not clear. "Other motives are not excluded, they are also being investigated."

In connection with the investigation, the police searched multiple homes in Utrecht and elsewhere in the Netherlands on Monday afternoon and night. Whether anything of note was found, the Prosecutor did not say. 

The three suspects were arrested after a seven-hour manhunt that effectively shut down the city of Utrecht. It started with a carjacking just before the 10:45 a.m. shooting, and ended with the arrest of Gökmen T. His arrest was announced at the end of a press conference around 6:30 p.m.

While all through Monday authorities stood firm that terrorism was the most prominent motive, reports into the background of T. suggested the possibility that the shooting was linked to the suspect’s relations. T. was held in low regard by many in his neighborhood, who have referred to him as a “lost, confused dork,” a “petty criminal,” and a “loser.”

T. is apparently the defendant in an ongoing rape case that dates back to 2017. The victim in that case spoke out against T., convinced he was going to hunt her down after the tram shooting. “I warned the police before. He is not a terrorist, but a psychopath,” Angelique told AD.

RTV Utrecht reported on T.‘s alleged criminal background, citing cases from 2013 up to Monday’s violence. In that time, the broadcaster said, T. has  been in contact with police for threatening a woman, verbally abusing a woman, threatening police, insulting police, driving under the influence, and urinating in a jail cell.