Boy, 9, in Amber Alert case found dead, police confirm; Suspect has history with authorities
A body that was found during the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy is that of nine-year-old Gino van der Straeten. The boy was missing since Wednesday evening, and his body was discovered Saturday morning, police confirmed at a press conference later that afternoon.
The child was found dead near a home in the municipality of Geleen. Hours earlier, a 22-year-old man from the same Limburg town was arrested at his home. Police said he the suspect is someone who has a prior history in Dutch criminal cases. Police credited the help of volunteers, tipsters, and the work of the officers who spent days trying to find the boy.
"That led to a suspect on Friday afternoon. We found Gino's body from information given by the suspect," said Xander Beenhakkers of the police. The investigation narrowed focus to two locations, the suspect’s home and the location where the body was found. Broadcaster 1Limburg reported that the suspect was arrested in the vicinity of where the body was discovered, but police have not revealed whether the crime scene on Opbraakstraat is adjacent to the suspect's home.
The suspect is believed to be 22-year-old Geleen resident Donny M., according to 1Limburg. His lawyer said earlier that he is suspected of kidnapping. During the press conference in Maastricht, police would not confirm the identity of the suspect.
He was being held in restricted custody, in which a suspect is only permitted contact with their legal representation. Authorities did not want to jeopardize the investigation by confirming further information about the suspect, said Henk van der Meijden, the deputy chief public prosecutor in Limburg.
"I can only say that the suspect will be brought before the examining magistrate next week," Beenhakkers said. Authorities can typically hold a suspect for up to three days before bringing them in for a remand hearing, at which time a magistrate can extend the initial detention period by up to 14 days. Police did add that inaccurate rumors about the identity of the suspect, and a photo depicting the wrong individual, were being shared on social media.
The 9-year-old boy disappeared from a playground in Kerkrade on Wednesday evening after going there to play football. Witnesses saw children and a man playing football at the playground around the time Gino went missing, according to the police. His family searched for him, calling his name, until 5 a.m. the next day.
An Amber Alert was distributed on Thursday, indicating that authorities believed the boy was in immediate danger. At that time, police said they were concerned about any boy of that age missing for that period of time, and had not ruled out that he was lost, suffered from an accident, or had been abducted.
The same day the Amber Alert went out, volunteers searching for the child found a scooter resembling Gino’s near a football field and swimming pool in Landgraaf, about eight kilometers away from Kerkrade. Volunteers in Kerkrade also found an item of clothing on Friday night that could be related to the missing boy.
The young boy was living in Maastricht with his mother. When she fell ill, he wound up staying in Kerkrade with his 32-year-old sister, a mother of two children. Kerkrade is about 30 kilometers away from Geleen, where the body was found.