Editor-in-chief De Limburger
De Limburger: independent, reliable and inspired journalism for Limburg and its citizens, for 175 years.
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Luister De Limburger, Het verhaal van Nicky Verstappen, Project 46, De Limburger Voetbalpodcast & De Limburger Brandstof
An 11-year-old boy was found dead in a Limburg wood in 1998. Twenty-two years later, the perpetrator was convicted. And De Limburger’s editorial team were heavily involved.
Looking back on a year that marked the greatest crisis since the Second World War requires reflection. Just as it was for everyone, 2020 was one of the most bizarre years I have ever experienced. From one day to the next, I had to live my life in a way I hadn’t chosen.
Living life in a way you hadn’t chosen – this sentence came to me when I was thinking about which work from Corona Year 2020 I was most proud of. For me, it was undeniably our work on the case of Nicky Verstappen. Nicky, a shy 11-year-old boy who went away to summer camp, only to be buried a week later with an Ajax flag draped over his coffin in Heibloem, a small village in the centre of Limburg. Vanishing from the tent where he lay sleeping with friends, a day later he was found alone and lifeless in a spruce forest. Since that dramatic day in August 1998, Nicky’s parents and sister no longer live the life they would have chosen. Since then, their life has become all about processing and seeking answers. Why? Why Nicky?
This case from 1998 got under my skin. Even if you don’t have children who have been away to camp or on a school trip, a case like this grabs you by the throat. As a reporter with De Limburger, I was working the weekend shift on 12 August 1998 when Nicky Verstappen was buried in Heibloem.
I still remember the service on the pitch of the local football club. After all these years, the image of the coffin with the Ajax flag still comes back to me regularly. Particularly when there are important developments in the case.
A phone call from the then chief public prosecutor Roger Bos is still clear in my memory, asking if he could come and talk about the DNA research that was being prepared in absolute secrecy. Though this was the last hope, Bos was convinced the perpetrator would be caught. When Jos Brech was named as a suspect during a press conference, the image of that coffin with its Ajax flag appeared in my head once again.
As I said: this case got under my skin. On the eve of the trial of the man involved in the disappearance and the death of Nicky Verstappen, we decided to make an eight-part podcast series and eventually to write a book. Coronavirus or not, we can do this, that was the firm belief of the reporters who worked on it. The case of Nicky Verstappen has stirred emotions in Limburg for two decades. It was our duty to invest our energy and time in presenting the facts properly.
It fills me with pride that in such a strange year, our editorial team was able to carry out this duty with high-quality reports online and in the paper – as well as a popular podcast series and a very readable book.