American man denies sexually abusing Rotterdam girl, 12; remanded into custody

Man sought in the disappearance of 12-year-old Hania from Rotterdam, 28 June 2019
Man sought in the disappearance of 12-year-old Hania from Rotterdam, 28 June 2019. (Photo: Politie)

American man James B. denies sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl in a Rotterdam hotel in June, though traces of the girl's DNA was found on his body, was revealed during a proforma hearing against him on Wednesday. The court remanded him into custody until his next hearing, scheduled for December 5th, according to Telegraaf reporter Saska Belleman tweeting live from the courtroom.

The 12-year-old girl from Rotterdam disappeared after leaving school on Thursday, June 27th. The police issued an Amber Alert, calling on the public's help to find the girl, later also releasing photos of a man wanted as a person of interest. This man, 50-year-old James B., was found with the girl in a hotel in Rotterdam a day later. The man is suspected of sexually abusing the girl, as well as legally withdrawing a minor from their parental authority.

Investigation revealed that B. met the girl through online game Starstable. They chatted on the game and he later created a Facebook profile through which they could chat privately. The authorities are currently analyzing these chat conversations. On June 27th, B. landed at Schiphol Airport. He then traveled to Rotterdam, where he had arranged to meet the girl. 

According to the Public Prosecutor, B. groomed the girl for months and then deliberately traveled to the Netherlands to have sex with her. The man acted systematically and did his best to erase his tracks, the Prosecutor said. 

B.'s lawyer Marijn Landsman asked the court to release his client from custody. According to the lawyer, it is no longer necessary for the investigation for B. to remain in custody and there is no concrete evidence to prove a risk of recurrence. As far as is known, B. has no criminal record in the United States or another country, there is nothing to show that he had previous contact with minor girls, and there is no evidence that B. is sexually attracted to young girls, the lawyer argued. Like any other suspect, B. has the right to await his trial in freedom, even if that comes with conditions like an ankle monitor or house arrest, Landsman said. 

But the court decided to keep B. in custody. According to the court, there is a risk that B. will try to contact the 12-year-old girl again. While knowing very well how old the girl is, B. spent months building explicitly sexual contact with her, the court said. Despite B.'s passport being confiscated, the court also considers him a flight risk. He may not be able to return to the United States if released, but he can go into hiding elsewhere in Europe, according to the court. 

B. will therefore remain in custody at least until the next hearing in this case. That hearing, also a proforma hearing, is scheduled for December 5th. 

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