Gov't called to intervene in mental healthcare after dog park murders

Thijs H. suspected in fatal stabbings in The Hague and Heerlen
Thijs H. suspected in three fatal stabbings, including one in The Hague and two in Heerlen. Undatedphoto: Politie

Multiple parties in Dutch parliament are calling on the government to intervene in mental healthcare in order to prevent serious crimes. This follows reports that triple-murder suspect Thijs H.'s parents unsuccessfully tried to have him admitted in the days before two people were stabbed to death while walking their dogs in Heerlen.

The 27-year-old man is suspected of stabbing three people to death in May this year. He is a suspect in the murder of a 56-year-old Japanese woman in Scheveniningen, The Hague on May 4th, as well as the murders of a 64-year-old woman and 68-year-old man in Brunsummerheide, Heerlen on May 7th. All three victims were walking their dogs when they were attacked. H. was arrested on May 9th

According to newspaper AD, in the days between the Scheveningen woman's murder and the murders in Brunsummerheide, H.'s parents desperately sought help for their son. They told multiple mental healthcare providers that their son showed "possessed behavior". But all the doctors they spoke to sent H. home.

Parliamentarians are outraged, they said to AD. "It cannot be explained that the cries for help from Thijs H.'s parents were not taken seriously", PvdA MP Attje Kuiken said. "Murders could have been prevented. That is a horrible conclusion, especially for the loved ones." The Netherlands has "a pattern in which disturbed persons do not get help or receive help too late,'' she said. "In general we see the same mistakes again as with the murders of Anne Faber, Joost Wolders and Els Borst. These are not incidents, but structural errors. Risks are not properly assessed, information is not shared and appropriate treatment does not take place."

The SP will request a debate with State Secretary Paul Blokhuis of Public Health on Tuesday. "If relatives shout for help and see it go wrong, and no action is taken, then that is very serious,'' MP Maarten Hijink said. "In particular people who need the most intensive care come into the picture too late. Municipalities and health care insurers should do much more to better organize care, so that you can intervene much earlier."

Coalition party CDA is also critical of the state of mental healthcare in the country. "These are shocking facts", CDA parliamentarian Joba van den Berg said. "The call for more openness and better information is not there for nothing. It must be taken seriously. Better information exchange is desperately needed to achieve a learning culture within mental healthcare."