Amber Alert suspect served prison time in Tilburg; Dutch officials warned Belgium about him
Dave De K., the 34-year-old man suspected in the abduction and death of 4-year-old Dean Verberckmoes from Belgium, served a previous prison sentence for the death of his 2-year-old stepson in Tilburg. The Tilburg penitentiary asked that he be placed in a psychiatric facility, but the Belgian authorities never granted the request, Belgian broadcaster VRT reported. The Dutch police will perform an autopsy on Dean's body on Tuesday to determine when and how he died.
Dean's mother had to go to the hospital on Wednesday. She asked a girlfriend to look after Dean. She last saw her son when the girlfriend's partner - De K. - dropped her off at a hospital in Sint Niklaas. According to Dean's mother, the couple watched him in the past with no incidents. He was excited to visit them again, she said to Belgian media. According to VRT, De K. disappeared with Dean on Wednesday. His mother reported him missing over the weekend.
On Monday, the Dutch police arrested De K. in Meerkerk and issued an Amber Alert for Dean. The boy's body was found near the island of Neeltje Jans on Monday night. A police spokesperson told ANP that a child's body was found in a remote parking lot, which is near the island but can be reached by road. According to VRT, the Dutch police assume the body found is Dean because De K. told them where to look during questioning. The police spokesperson could not confirm this to ANP.
In 2010, De K. was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing his 2-year-old stepson. He was convicted of child abuse resulting in death. He was detained in Tilburg between 2010 and 2015. In that period, the Dutch prison asked that the man be transferred to a psychiatric institution for treatment, but Belgium could not grant that request, Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said to VRT.
"There was not enough room in psychiatry at the time," the Minister said. According to Van Quickenborne, urgent work must be done to improve guidance for convicts with high-risk profiles through tailor-made care.
The Belgian authorities sent De K. to a rehab facility to treat his drug addiction. He was released to house arrest with an ankle monitor in July 2017. And by December 2018, he had completed his sentence.
Dean lived with his mother and sister in Verrebroek, a Belgian town near Beveren. De K. and his girlfriend live in Sint-Gillis-Waas, a neighboring village that also borders Zeeland.
Mayor Marc Van de Vijver of Beveren said he was "dismayed" to hear about the toddler's death, speaking to Radio 2 Oost-Vlaanderen. "From his disappearance, I was constantly kept informed of the developments. But I always had hopes that it would end well."
"I am horrified, full of disbelief," Van de Vijver said to the Belgian radio station. "My thoughts go out to the family, my support and condolences. The past few days must have been terrible for the family. When the babysitter was arrested yesterday, we still had hope in our hearts, but our minds told us to expect the worst. That is why, with the police, we have assisted the family from the beginning, to prepare them for the worst. Personally, I do not know the family. But they must be going through hell right now. Losing a child of 4 in such a traumatic way. That is horrible, that is inhumane, almost impossible to put into words. Today we are going to see if we can open a mourning register."