A desperate search for a missing 4-year-old boy across two countries came to a grim conclusion on Tuesday when police announced that the boy’s “lifeless body” had been discovered near an amusement park 5 days after the boy was kidnapped by a babysitter.
Dutch police announced that they had found the remains of Belgian boy Dean Verberckmoes late on Monday, days after the boy’s “terrified” mother made a heartbreaking public appeal for him. The kidnapper took the boy home.
Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reported that the boy’s remains were found in an abandoned area of Neeltje Jans, a man-made island with an amusement park in the Dutch province of Zeeland that is very popular with tourists. It is thought he was hidden among the rocks in a remote parking lot near the river.
The site is about 60 miles from Verberckmoes’ home in Sint Niklass, across the Belgian border.
Investigators are said to have worked at the scene throughout the night, with black screens erected around the area to keep it out of public view. According to HLN, a hearse believed to be carrying the body of a 4-year-old boy departed from the area around 7am.
The shock of the boy’s death was only overshadowed by anger at his alleged kidnapper – the boy’s longtime babysitter, who set the alarm last week after failing to release the boy at home. grandparents’ house. The boy was later reported missing on January 12.
As search efforts intensified and an Amber Alert was issued in the Netherlands, the boy’s mother, Elke Verberckmoes, directly pleaded with his captor to bring him back.
“I try to stay strong, but I’m really scared. All I want now is to be reunited with my little apple. Maybe put it at the door and then drive away, but take my son home,” she was quoted as saying by HLN.
She recalls that the last words he said to her, as he waved goodbye, were: “Hi mom, I’ll miss you.”
All pleas were in vain, however, as Dutch police delivered a gut-wrenching punch in a statement late Monday: “The police investigation has pointed to a crime scene can happen [on Neeltje Jans] on Monday night,” and after a helicopter joined the search effort, “the lifeless body of a child was found. ”
“The child’s mother has been informed of the bad news by Belgian police,” a Brabant police spokesman told local media.
Dutch police, who have officially identified the suspect as Dave De K., said they arrested him Monday in the town of Meerkerk, about 75 kilometers from where the body was found.
The toddler’s mother told local media that the man had been regularly stalking her two children, who she said “always said they went with him and played games with him.” .”
Belgian prosecutors said the man had previously served a prison sentence for child abuse that led to the death of a 2-year-old boy. The boy was released in 2018. It was not immediately clear if the boy’s mother was aware of the babysitter’s records.
She had previously expressed shock at his plan to kidnap her son in comments to Belgian media, saying she met the babysitter for the first time after getting to know his girlfriend during treatment. treatment for depression at a local psychiatric hospital.
“We get along very well and talk almost every day. Every Wednesday, they take care of my two children, for my mother’s peace of mind. Dave has the best relationship with Dean,” she told HLN.
Dutch media have reported that the suspect’s girlfriend has also been arrested in the case, although there were no further details on the charges against her immediately.