The body of a four-year-old Belgian boy has been found in the Netherlands after he was abducted by his babysitter, who it emerged has a previous conviction for abuse that led to the death of a two-year-old child.
A police search found Dean Verberckmoes, who had been missing for four days, at the back of a car park near a theme park on an artificial island off the Dutch Zeeland coast on Sunday night.
The discovery followed the arrest and questioning of Dave De Kock, 34, who had been due to return the boy to his grandmother last Thursday.
De Kock had been arrested at 2.15pm on Sunday after reports from residents in Gorinchem, in South Holland province, of an intoxicated man peering into houses.
It has been reported that De Kock was initially unable to answer questions but later led detectives to where he is suspected of dumping Dean’s body.
De Kock, who was described as a “cuddly uncle” to Dean, had regularly looked after the boy for his mother, Elke Verberckmoes, 39, who is receiving treatment for depression.
Verberckmoes told Belgian media outlets that she had trusted De Kock entirely and had no idea that he had been convicted in 2008 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for “inhumane acts resulting in the death” of two-year-old Miguel Van Kriekinge. De Kock’s prison sentence ended in December 2018.
On Sunday, Verberckmoes said: “Dave would take care of my son, which he did every Wednesday. They get along very well and Dean considers him something of a cuddly uncle. There was no indication that he had other plans this time.”
Dean’s last words to his mother before being taken were: “Goodbye mum, I’m going to miss you.”
The boy was last been seen by Verberckmoes on Wednesday when De Kock dropped her off at a hospital in Sint-Niklaas, a city near Antwerp, where she was staying for scheduled treatment.
De Kock then drove the boy to his house in Kerkstraat in Sint-Gillis-Waas where he lived with his girlfriend. On Thursday, De Kock told the boy’s grandmother that Dean wanted to stay an extra night with him.
Over the next few days, De Kock maintained contact via text messages with Dean’s mother but communication appears to have ended on Saturday, at which point the police were alerted.
In response to public anger over the case, Belgium’s justice minister, Vincent Van Quickenborne, said legislation allowing judges to order the surveillance of offenders after prison had been enacted too late to apply to him.
De Kock’s previous conviction had seen him befriend his victim’s mother, Sandra Verbeek, 35, whom he had lived with for four weeks before her son’s death.
A court heard from psychiatric experts that De Kock would react in a “sadistic way” when he was upset. In explanation of the fatal injuries to Verbeek’s child, De Kock had said he had played “brutal games” with the boy while under the influence of drugs. A judge ruled that the injuries discovered to the boy’s face, torso and arms “could in no way be explained by brutal games”.
Dean’s body was found by police on Neeltje Jans, an artificial island popular with cyclists and walkers during the summer but largely unpopulated in the winter. The suspect’s Peugeot was discovered at the grounds of a car breaker.