No conviction for influencing witnesses | Family member of murdered Esmee provided ‘support’

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No conviction for influencing witnesses |  Family member of murdered Esmee provided 'support'

The court in The Hague has acquitted an 80-year-old family member accused of influencing witnesses in the murder case of 14-year-old Esmee in 2021. The suspect allegedly told the two witnesses not to testify about the later convicted perpetrator. The court rules that this cannot be proven. She would only have wanted to offer support.

By Joost van der Wegen

Image: the court in The Hague

Convicted

Esmee’s lifeless body was found in a park in Leiden on December 31, 2021. The police launched a large-scale investigation and soon arrested a suspect. He was irrevocably convicted on November 28, 2022 for killing the girl from Hazerswoude-Rijndijk. The court imposed a prison sentence of 12 years and a TBS with compulsory treatment.

Included

The suspect in today’s case is the great-aunt of the man later convicted. According to the Public Prosecution Service (OM), recorded telephone conversations show that the suspect is guilty of influencing two witnesses: the mother of the convicted man and his ex-girlfriend.

The Public Prosecution Service accused her of encouraging them not to say anything to the police about the suspected son’s ‘mood’, because ‘detectives are not psychologists’. She was also told not to answer the phone when the police called and not to call them back. She also did not have to cooperate with the police interrogation. She would have to invoke her possible right of non-disclosure as a family member.

‘Yes, it is now part of the investigation. I find that strange too. Directly from the police. Immediately after I… hung up. I don’t know if they will listen.’

‘We don’t know that at all. In this case it can’t hurt. It’s not that… As it were, it could be that you have to testify against your son.’

“If you say the wrong thing, it could ruin it for your son.”

‘As a family you are absolutely not obliged to testify.’

‘Not obliged to do it.’

‘You have the right to be changed. A lawyer would have to assess that. […]’

The suspect denies that they wanted to ‘affect’ the ‘freedom of explanation’ of the witnesses. She says she wanted to offer the convicted man’s mother psychological support during a difficult time. According to her, her statements were only supportive and advisory. The suspect’s mother was completely ‘devastated’ at the time because of the serious accusation against her son. She wanted to take care of her during a difficult period.

The 80-year-old woman who wanted to offer support to the mother is a psychiatrist and had been approached by the family of the suspected murderer herself.

Judgement

The court notes that the recorded conversations took place during a turbulent time. ‘A family member of the suspect was suspected of a very serious criminal offense. The suspect supported the family during the investigation, also based on her expertise as a psychiatrist. During this period, many discussions were held within the suspect’s family and circle of acquaintances about the ongoing investigation, both by telephone and in person.’

The court takes into account that the statements mentioned by the Public Prosecution Service are snapshots that in some cases were a follow-up to previous conversations (not by telephone). Moreover, the expressions are partly paraphrased.’

The court adds that pointing out the right of non-disclosure was done to reassure and give advice to the suspect’s mother. That cannot be construed as obstruction of testimony.

light

From the detailed tap conversations, the court concludes that the suspect shared her opinions with the mother of the convicted man. “These statements could perhaps be interpreted as contradictory in light of the then ongoing investigation into the girl’s death.” But because intent to influence the witnesses could not be established, the court acquitted the woman.

Read the ruling in this case here

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