Nicky Verstappen was murdered 20 years ago. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Suspect in murder of boy 20 years ago is found

After a hunt lasting two decades, Dutch police believe they have finally tracked down a man suspected of killing an 11-year-old boy in the Netherlands.

Spanish police arrested 55-year-old Dutchman Jos Brech – who was publicly named as the suspected killer by Dutch police last week – about 50km north of Barcelona on Sunday.

Dutch detectives said the suspect’s DNA matched traces on the body and clothing of Nicky Verstappen, who was found dead on August 10, 1998, near a summer camp in the Dutch countryside from which he had gone missing the previous night.

The match was established in June this year, police said, using DNA provided by relatives of the suspect who had reported him missing in April. Police went public with their information last week, publishing the man’s picture and full name.

“Spanish police were able to arrest him after someone recognised the man from the picture,” prosecutor Jan Eland said. Mr Brech will be extradited to the Netherlands, he said, but it is unclear how long that will take.

Over the years, police have made several wrongful arrests in the case, and even opened up the grave of one of the supervisors of the summer camp.

Earlier this year, over 15,000 men who lived near the place where the boy was found responded to a request for samples of their DNA, but also without success.

Mr Brech was interviewed by police near the scene of the crime in the days after the killing, but merely as a passer-by. His name didn’t turn up again until his relatives handed over some of his items when they reported him missing last April.

Police had said advanced analysis had revealed Brech’s DNA was a “perfect one-for-one match” with traces found on the body of Nicky Verstappen.

‘De Telegraaf’ newspaper posted a video of Spanish police arresting Mr Brech near “a kind of commune” outside the village of Castellterçol, about 50km north of Barcelona, while he was out collecting firewood.

The paper said it had been called on Saturday by a Dutch national visiting the isolated, wooded area who had recognised Mr Brech from police photographs.

“The witness had spoken to Brech on several occasions and had specific information,” ‘Telegraaf’ crime reporter Marcel Vink told the Dutch national broadcaster NOS. “He wanted to do his civic duty.”

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