Justice waited thirteen years

This story is based on the 1997 murder of Dutch teenager Marianne Vaatstra

Marianne Vaatstra, Jasper Steringa

Queens day in the Netherlands
April 30, 1997
A sixteen year-old girl had taken part in the festivities on the official birthday celebration day of our queen Beatrix. *
When it was time to go home, she left with her boyfriend and one of his friends.
They had to cover a couple of kilometers to get from Kollum to her home in Zwaagwesteinde.
The last part of that route, she went on her way alone.
That wasn’t supposed to happen and it would turn out to be fatal.
Her name was Marianne Vaatstra and she never arrived home.

Search for Marianne
When Marianne’s mother discovered her daughter hadn’t slept in her bed, panic broke out. Friends and family set out to search for her. She was found that day, in a meadow behind some bushes. She was lying on her stomach. Her throat was cut and the killer had tried his very best to strangle her with the handle of her own purse. She was raped in every way she could have been. Her father, who also was out to find her, has seen her lying there. That horrible image of his youngest daughter must be imprinted in his brain forever.

It was the beginning of a case that got a lot of media coverage, caused a lot of speculation and commotion under large groups of people.

Conspiracy theorists
They usually are on top of things, maybe even everywhere.
You might say they, of course, were also there in this case.
Even today, when someone already’s convicted for this case, they’re active to spread around their theory. And they don’t mind who they’ll hurt in the process.

For example, the people they suspect and Marianne’s mother.
Relentlessly and against court order, they continue to slander people who had nothing to do with the murder of Marianne. They also continue to force Marianne’s mother back to court over and over, to protect something that was hers in the first place. A private diary. It was never meant to get published. It just had fallen in the wrong hands, because Marianne’s mother made a judgement error she couldn’t know beforehand. Now she pays the consequences, because there are people who don’t care about her feelings, her right to move on, her right to decide whether her private diary should exist on-line or not.

Could those theorists be right about the wrong person being behind bars? That’s not likely at all.

They got him
On Sunday, november 18, 2012, A 44 year-old man gets arrested. His name is Jasper Steringa, a Frisian farmer from Oudwoude in the Netherlands.
DNA relatives-connection research from September and October did him in.
They could match his DNA to the DNA found on her. Nobody else’s DNA was there.
He confessed and didn’t recant. If it had been a false confession, he likely would’ve recanted soon after.
All evidence points to him. He knew details only the killer could’ve known. Police could’ve fed that to him, it happens sometimes, but everything fits. His farm was within 2,5 kilometers of the crime scene. He even still had the knife he used on Marianne. A trophy?

This man’s DNA wasn’t in any database. He only got caught because they came up with a big DNA-project and repeated that a few times the following years. They again summoned people to come give DNA, to exclude them and hopefully find the perpetrator. This time, in a circle of five kilometers around the crime scene. When family of him would come to deliver their DNA, he would get exposed because of it. He lived within that circle and he got a letter to come by. The net was closing in on him. Backed into a corner he delivered his DNA.

A Dutch, for us well-known, crime reporter, Peter R. de Vries, broke the news on Twitter. He had at one point an episode about this case, in his weekly crime documentary program ‘Peter R. de Vries, crime reporter’. It was the same man who didn’t let go in the case of Natalee Holloway and Joran van der Sloot. That annoyed the latter highly. He even threw the content of a glass of wine in Peter’s face when they were together in a television program once.

Justice at last
And now Peter was happy to announce they found Marianne’s killer. Marianne and her family had to wait for thirteen years, before they got this justice. Most people thought this case would never get solved anymore, including me, but it did. For thirteen years he could go on with his life, like nothing horrible had ever happened. He didn’t care, Marianne’s family were left with picking up the shattered pieces of their lives. The marriage between Marianne’s parents fell apart in the mean time. Her mother wanted to give it a rest at a certain point. She had to. Her father couldn’t. That divided them, because they both had a very different way of dealing with this tragedy.

The perpetrator not only destroyed a young life that barely had started, he destroyed her whole family and his. The latter didn’t know it for thirteen years. The wheels of time and realisation can turn slow.
He also caused big conflicts between Frisian people, the asylum seekers who were residing in the asylum center in the neighborhood, the police and the people who work for the organisation helping those asylum seekers. A lot of people thought one of the asylum seekers had done it, because the center was so close to where she was found. A lot of people started to think the police and the board of the organisation had tried to cover-up the real killer. Tension was running high.

Plus, ‘an expert’ had claimed the way her throat was cut, wasn’t Western. Media, surely, had publicized that statement widely in the newspaper. It made a lot of people suspect non-Western people and exclude the one we actually were looking for. Like we already hadn’t enough division between people in the Netherlands and people who come here to seek refuge.

Well, it was one of our own in the end, after all. He was Frisian and he lived not that far from the spot where her lifeless body was found. It was a chance encounter that Marianne died that night, but it was on purpose some unfortunate female had to die. He was out trolling for a victim. As soon as he saw her, he decided she was his. He literally said that in court. Under the threat of a knife, he led her into that meadow, did his horrible deeds and left. Two sets of prints going in and only one going out told the story of Marianne’s last walk ever.

Case closed
I think we can safely say we have the right person behind bars. It won’t bring back Marianne, but at least her killer is hold accountable. He got sentenced to eighteen years and he didn’t appeal. If you were totally innocent, wouldn’t you at least try to reverse your conviction?

The conspiracy theorists should learn to let go. Fighting for the truth, fighting for a good cause, I applaud that, but there’s nothing to fight for here. This case is solved. There’s no conspiracy here. Mr. Steringa isn’t wrongly convicted.

Comment
I can’t post related articles. They’re written in Dutch. It would be pretty useless to bother you with articles you can’t read. I did follow this case from the start. I read a book about why this case never got solved. That was of course before we knew the truth. Now her father has written a book about his daughter as well. It’s in Dutch, so it’s also useless to post a link to where you can get it. I didn’t read that one yet, but I will at some point. I admire his strength and his relentless efforts to keep Marianne’s case in the public. He never gave up in trying to get it solved.

He won the Machiavelli prize. It’s a Dutch award, given to someone who made a remarkable public communication impression. Some people objected to that, because he supposedly had threatened former director, Guido Klabbers, of ‘Vluchtelingenwerk Leeuwarden’ (organisation for helping refugees) by phone in ’99. Mr. Klabbers went to the police, to prevent Mr. Vaatstra getting that yearly price for the year 2012. Threatening someone is wrong, agreed, but it was separate from the prize Mr. Vaatstra would receive.
Are we really begrudging him some award? Let him have it! His daughter was murdered. Would you act nice and friendly all the time? I don’t think so. Besides, it isn’t proven at all that it really was Mr. Vaatstra, who made that call. The Machiavelli organisation didn’t budge. Bauke Vaatstra would get that prize, period.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Dutch Authors Wim Dankbaar and Hans Mauritz somehow got their hands on Marianne’s mother’s private diary. This was already mentioned more above in the article. The dragged-out saga wasn’t over, unfortunately. The authors decided to use it for their conspiracy theory book about this case. Yes, the leaders of the pack of conspiracy theorists I wrote about above.
Maaike, Marianne’s mother, was horrified by the thought and she objected. She didn’t want her inner thoughts and feelings displayed in public! That had never been the purpose. Dankbaar and Mauritz turned a deaf ear and published the book with parts of the diary anyway. Maaike objected again, this time to a court. In 2013, the North-Holland court agreed with Maaike and forbade the book. The authors weren’t allowed to sell it any longer.
However, copies of the book already were sold and too many were still in circulation. Dankbaar and Mauritz didn’t take any effort to pull books back. Maaike went to court again. This time it would cost the authors money. Two courts decided to hand out big fines to them. The Frisian court in Leeuwarden awarded Maaike € 66,000 and the one in Amsterdam went further with € 200,000. The question rises if the total amount will stay € 266,000. The Amsterdam court didn’t consider what happened in the Leeuwarden court.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017
As I predicted, the saga continued. The mentioned authors didn’t only make life difficult for the victim’s mother. They had their sight on a German man and claimed he was the actual killer. Wim Dankbaar en Hans Mauritz continued to publish putting him in a bad light. Finally, this man had more than enough, went to court and won. According to the judge, the authors performed an imprecise aka sloppy research for their book on Marianne Vaatstra’s murder. Their punishment: They both have to rectify their stories in two Frysian newspapers. In addition they have to pay the German man € 10,000 in damages. Also, they are not allowed to publish any new unjust accusations. If they fail to comply, they’ll be fined with € 1000 per time. Of course, Wim Dankbaar’s going to appeal. I translate his quote:”The judge didn’t allow me to hear witnesses. They can support my stories. I call anew this a crooked verdict.” Stay tuned, I assume.

Picture source
The culprit drawing I got from a Dutch site: deondernemer.nl
Marianne’s picture comes from the GVA.be website
The creation is a Mirjam Penning.

* Note
We don’t have Beatrix as a queen anymore. We don’t have a Queen’s day anymore. We have a king now, her son, so that day’s changed into King’s day. We still have a queen, but that’s the King’s wife. She’s from Argentina originally and her name is Máxima Zorreguieta.

Update
Added the latest development from the aftermath of this case. (March 7, 2017)

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Author of (based on) True Crime and articles based on injustices.

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Posted in Injustices
4 comments on “Justice waited thirteen years
  1. Sherri says:

    Fascinating story Mirjam and very well written. Thank you for bringing it to our attention, I had not heard this story.

  2. Hi, Sherri, nice to see you here again. I don’t think this story is familiar across our borders that much or even at all. I grew up in the same county as her, not even that far from the village she lived. My ‘inheritage’ is also Frisian. It could’ve happened to me as well. When I grew up there, I also went home alone by myself late at night in the dark very often on the weekends or on celebration days. I felt very comfortable with that. Never did it cross my mind that it could go wrong. Of course, now I know better. But this made an impact on me. That poor girl. How scared she must have been. And how sad her life was taken from her before she could really bloom.

  3. Sherri says:

    Yes, so very sad…and always a sober reminder of all the times when things could have been so terribly different but thankfully weren’t…for most of us.

  4. It certainly is. In hindsight, I count my blessings that it turned out so well for me. The times it could’ve gone wrong so horribly. I really have been lucky a couple of times.
    At some point you loose that innocence and we should remember the ones that lost more than just that.

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