Victim's father tries to goad Utrecht mass shooter into attending court hearing in open letter

Flowers and candles left at the scene of a mass shooting on 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht on 18 March 2019
Flowers and candles left at the scene of a mass shooting on 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht on 18 March 2019Photo: Gemeente Utrecht/Twitter

Rene Verschuur, who lost his 19-year-old daughter Roos in a mass shooting on a tram on 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht in March, is furious that suspect Gokmen T. is refusing to attend the next pro-forma hearing in the case against him, scheduled for Monday. In an open letter published by newspaper AD, Verschuur repeatedly called T. a coward for refusing to appear in court and account for his cowardly deeds.

On March 18th a man opened fire on a tram on 24 Oktoberplein. A total of four people were killed, three died on the day of the shooting, and the other a week later. Suspected gunman Gokmen T. was arrested hours after the incident. He confessed to the shooting and told the authorities that he was working alone. The 37-year-old man is facing charges of murder or manslaughter with terrorist intent, attempts thereto, and threats with terrorist intent. The court had to force T. to attend the previous hearing

The full text of  Rene Verschuur's letter, translated from Dutch:

To the murderer o my daughter Roos,

On 18 March you changed my life and that of many others. You took my 19 year old daughter from me. My dear Roos.

Your act was not only cowardly, but also seriously disturbed. Acquaintances of yours would describe you as 'a madman, a drug dealer, and an unstable figure', from whom you could expect such disturbed behavior. But no matter how many drugs you have used in your life, no matter how seriously you have wasted your life, an act like this can never be justified. The fact that you make all sorts of crazy arguments for your actions makes it clear to me that you have really lost it.

What struck me most is that after such a bizarre act you are also so cowardly not to want to appear in court. You only go if you are forced. You probably know that it doesn't matter any more and now you're trying everything in order to justify your actions.

During the previous hearing you argued that you would not be a democrat and would not recognize our laws. But your past shows that before you never had any trouble to call on those laws. Hypocritical. You have engaged lawyers, you have made use of rights such as appeals. But now you try to convince others that you do not recognize Western society. Apparently you don't see that nobody believes you and you only make yourself more unbelievable than you already are.

The court and the Public Prosecution Service do not want to force you to appear at the next hearing on 23 September. For me that is incomprehensible. Because you can hide from your disgusting actions, but the relatives and victims cannot run away from our intense feelings of sadness and grief.

Your act was cowardly, the fact that you were arrested by our democratic police is cowardly and also shows your fear of dying, that you do not want to appear in the hearings is cowardly and shows me that you might be ashamed of your actions. That is the only positive for me of the fact that you hide in the criminal cell, where you - if our system works as it should - will never come out (alive) again.