Suspect in Utrecht mass shooting removed from court over snide comment to victim

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

Gokmen T., the 38-year-old man on trial for killing four people in a mass shooting on an Utrecht tram on 18 March 2019, was again removed from court on Tuesday. This time he made a snide comment to one of the victims who survived the attack. "I no longer want the suspect in the room," the court president said, NOS reports. "I don't want order to be disturbed in this way."

On Tuesday, the second day of the trial surrounding the attack on 24 Oktoberplein, the surviving victims and relatives of the four people who were killed were given the chance to speak. One survivor,  21-year-old woman, told how T. shot a girl. She heard him shout "Allahu akbar" before she was shot in the back. "While I was bleeding out on the ground, I pinched my own fingers. Did this really happen? As soon as the ambulance arrived, everything went black."

She was in a coma for nine days, and is still recovering. "Fortunately I am strong in my shoes. Gokmen, you did not defeat me," she said.

"A pity," the suspect replied to the victim's statement. The comment immediately resulted in an uproar in the courtroom, prompting the court president to remove the man from the room. He had to follow the rest of the hearing in a separate room, where he was also sent on Monday for spitting on his court-appointed lawyer.

"He shot my child and just stepped over her. So cruel and inhumane," the mother of 19-year-old Roos, who was killed in the attack, said in court on Tuesday. "T. caused so much pain and sorrow. He took my girl. Murdered, I can hardly get the word out of my mouth."

Roos's father is still struggling with the question of whether the attack could have been prevented. T. was released early from prison on March 1st last year, even though he attacked a prison guard a short time before his release. If the judge had known that earlier, would T. still have been released early, the father wondered. "If a number of things had gone differently, Roos might still be alive," his lawyer, Sebas Diekstra said in court. "That fact eats away at him. Every day."

Roos's father addressed T. directly. "Your own brother turned you in to the police. That says everything. That also tells me that your family can distance itself from your sick deeds. Your brother deserves respect for this, something you will never, ever, ever earn again," Roos's father said. "You can sit there and laugh, but I will have the last laugh. When you are buried. I will stomp on your grave."

The sister of 49-year-old Rinke, who was killed in the attack, also spoke in court on Tuesday. "Who are you to make three children grow up without their father?" she asked. "I'll tell you. You're a good-for-noting, a superfluous person."

Rinke's father is also still struggling with the fact that T. was released early from prison, just weeks before he killed his son. T. was a repeat offender, he stressed. "His IQ is low, but high enough to deceive the judiciary for 18 years. It would have been easy to lock up this criminal." The fact that this did not happen, cost the lives of his son and three other innocent people, Rinke's father said. "That is the result of wrong choices."

T. is accused of multiple counts of murder or manslaughter with terrorist intent for the mass shooting on 24 Oktoberplein on March 18h, 2019. He confessed to the shooting multiple times, following his arrest on the same day of the shooting. The court set four days aside for his trial. The Public Prosecutor will announce the sentence a guilty verdict should command on Thursday - the last day of hearings.