Suspect could get 24 years for killing three dog walkers

Thijs H. suspected in three 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

The Public Prosecution (OM) demanded 24 years in prison and institutionalized psychiatric treatment against Thijs H., the 28-year-old man accused in three separate murders. The Prosecutor considers it proven that H. carried out a premeditated plan when he stabbed three people to death while they were walking their dogs in The Hague and Heerlen last year.

H. confessed to killing a 56-year-old woman in the Scheveningse Bosjes in The Hague on May 4 last year, who the prosecutor said was stabbed dozens of times. H. confirmed he was also responsible for killing a 63-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man in the Brunssummerheide near Heerlen three days later. In court last week he repeated and confirmed his confession, and expressed regret after listening to statements from the victims’ relatives.

Experts from the Pieter Baan Center (PBC) concluded that H. was suffering from a “serious psychotic disorder” during the murders. They considered the suspect insane and advised the court to sentence him to institutionalized treatment.

H. told the court that he got “messages and signals” from vehicle license plates, news reports, and television shows. And that he was worried that if he did not follow the orders to kill people, his family would die instead.

However, the OM said the story the experts uncovered when examining H. was incomplete. "There are also doubts about the reliability of the suspect's story and that of his family," the OM said in a statement. "There is no objective data to confirm that story. Therefore, the PBC not only had an incomplete story, but, in our view, also an unreliable story. In addition, the suspect himself had at least a hand in the development of a possible psychosis, because despite warnings he frequently used drugs and took medication that was not prescribed by a doctor."

The Public Prosecution Service raised questions about H.’s mental state, saying that there were indications that H. had other motives for the murders, apart from the delusions he claimed in his various statements.

The Prosecutor also criticized H.’s parents in court, according to the Telegraaf. H. was staying at his parents’ home in Brunssum when he murdered the two people in Brunssummerheide. His parents already knew that he was struggling with his mental health. On the day of the Brunssummerheide murders, May 7, H. left their home at around 10:15 a.m. and returned, covered in blood and apparently disorientated, at 1:30 p.m, the Prosecutor said.

By then it was already known that two people had been killed in the nature reserve, and the Scheveningen murder three days prior was also national news. According to the Prosecutor, it should “at least have crossed [the parents’] minds that their son had something to do with it”. They should have called the police. Instead, “they washed his clothes and the knife,” the Prosecutor said.

The Prosecutor also pointed out that while H. was admitted to the Mondriaan mental health institution, his parents went to his studio apartment in The Hague and tidied up. “A strange action,” the Prosecutor said, adding that they “disrupted the trace evidence image”.

The trial will conclude on Wednesday. The verdict will be handed down on July 30, and if found guilty, the court will also reveal the sentence.