Thousands attend vigil for young boy who was abducted and killed
Thousands of people gathered in Kerkrade on Wednesday evening to commemorate 9-year-old Gino van der Straeten, who was abducted while playing in a park near his sister's house precisely a week earlier. Gino's sisters were among the attendees. The police found the boy's body in Geleen on Saturday.
The commemoration started at around 7:30 p.m. with an honor guard of about 200 cars and motorcycles with roaring engines, NOS reports. Gino liked cars, the organizers of the silent march said. With flowers and balloons in hand, thousands of people walked through the Kerkrade streets from the Eurode Business Center to the playground on Hertogenlaan, where GIno was last seen on June 1 at around 7:30 p.m.
Gino's sister gave a speech at the end of the march. "If Gino had been here, he would have been watching with wide eyes. He would be surprised at so much interest, especially for him. That is how we want to remember him too. Our little brother. Our sweet and cheerful child." Naomi thanked everyone who helped search for her brother. "We notice that a lot of people sympathize with us, in all kinds of different ways. The grief about Gino is enormous, and it does not diminish. But all the support we receive does us good."
The family is preparing for Gino's funeral, which will happen in private. Naomi asked that people respect that so that they can say goodbye in peace. She also said she hopes that "the Netherlands will be shaken awake" by Gino's murder. "We hope that lessons are learned from this because this should never, ever happen again," she said. Their sister Kelly added: "The Netherlands has failed."
Ramona Nyqvist, one of the vigil’s organizers, also criticized the functioning of the Dutch legal system, referring to suspect Donny M.’s previous conviction for child sex abuse. “The question is not why, but how. How is it possible that such a monster can roam free? After all the suffering he caused other children in the past?”
Kerkrade mayor Petra Dassen-Housen said she understands the “feelings of powerlessness, despair, incomprehension, and anger,” according to the broadcaster. “What possesses someone to do this to a child, his family, and those around them? What kind of person are you? The more this goes through our minds, the angrier we become. Because this act is incomprehensible and will forever remain barbaric.” She urged the community to support each other.
Gino lived in Maastricht but was staying with his sister for a few days because his mother was ill. Last week Wednesday, he did not come home after playing with some other boys in the park. The police found his body at a burnt-out house in Geleen on Saturday. They arrested 22-year-old Donny M. on suspicion of kidnapping and murder.
This evening, there will be another vigil for Gino in Maastricht, where he lived with his mother.