It’s a spring afternoon in the English town of Stevenage, near London, and 36-year-old Dutchman Andy van den Hurk, who is living in the town, walks into the local police station. According to a Facebook post he made earlier that day, van den Hurk wants to confess to the murder of his sister – a teenager who died in the Netherlands 16 years prior. But soon new facts about the case will be revealed, and matters are a lot more confused than they may appear.
On July 4, 1980, Angelika Tegtmeier gave birth to a baby girl she named Nicole in Erkelenz, a town in western Germany. Tegtmeier was in a relationship with Ad van den Hurk, a Dutch singer, but Nicole was actually conceived out of a clandestine relationship that Tegtmeier was involved in with a married German entrepreneur. And although the married man would pay towards Nicole’s upkeep, van den Hurk was convinced that the girl was his. Two years later, Tegtmeier and van den Hurk subsequently got married, and the family settled in Veldhoven, a small town near Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
Under Dutch law, van den Hurk was now legally recognized as the child’s father. He maintained that he was “the true father of Nicole,” adding, “You’re assuming what’s on paper. But I believe what Angie told me… ‘You’re the father of Nicole,’” he told local newspaper Eindhovens Dagblad. And after the couple divorced in 1989, van den Hurk was granted custody of Nicole.
Van den Hurk then went on to marry another woman, named Jolanda. Sadly, meanwhile, Nicole’s mother took her own life in nearby Tilburg in April 1995. Yet despite this tragedy and the fact that the family unit was quite unconventional, there seemed to be no indication of any problems in the van den Hurk household. However, then, on October 6, 1995, their lives were turned completely upside down.
The now 15-year-old Nicole had been staying with her grandmother in Tongelre, a suburb of Eindhoven. And early that autumn morning, she climbed on her bicycle and set off for her casual job at a bakery in a shopping center in Woensel, some six miles away. Tragically, she would never arrive. When the teenager failed to show up, her boss tried to telephone her, but he failed to get through.
At about 6:00 p.m. that evening it became clear that something was very seriously wrong. While undertaking an initial search for the missing girl, police officers discovered Nicole’s bike in the river Dommel to the north of Eindhoven. That same night, then, divers began scouring the murky depths for any sign of the teenager.
For the next four days investigators pursued several different avenues, hoping to locate Nicole and bring her safely home. As well as searching the river, police combed nearby woodlands on foot and surveyed the area from the air. They also began quizzing anyone they thought might hold some clues to the girl’s disappearance.
Among those questioned were Nicole’s boyfriend, classmates, family and friends, along with five children who had been in trouble for harassing pedestrians and cyclists in the Wasvenpad area of Eindhoven where Nicole was last reported to have been seen. By October 11, police had received almost 100 tips regarding her case.
However, despite continued searching of the area – including two overflow drains that were targeted on the advice of a psychic engaged by the van den Hurks – no sign of Nicole could be found. Sniffer dogs were employed to search by the Eindhoven Canal after the teenager’s rucksack was found there on October 19. Then in subsequent weeks the dragnet expanded to wider areas.
By November some investigators had begun to suspect that the girl had run away, possibly to Germany to stay with her biological father’s family. However, Ad van den Hurk angrily rejected such talk. Then, on November 22, the tragic news came that a hiker had discovered Nicole’s body in woods between the local villages of Lierop and Mierlo – less than seven miles from where she had gone missing. Police later revealed that there was evidence it had been a violent end. And although an official cause of Nicole’s death was never announced, public prosecutors believed it to have been internal bleeding following a stab wound.
Sadly, moreover, this horrible tragedy was just the beginning of a nightmare that would haunt the van den Hurk family for the next two decades. In the absence of any concrete suspects or possible motives, the Dutch police began to concentrate their sights on Nicole’s family. Specifically, they investigated her stepfather, Ad, and stepbrother, Andy – a product of a previous marriage, born in 1975, who had come to stay with his dad after the disappearance.
In between May and June the next year, both van den Hurk men were arrested and questioned over Nicole’s death, although they were both swiftly released without charge. And there the trail for the girl’s killer appeared to go cold. For the next 15 years, in fact, it seemed as if Nicole’s killer had gotten away with the dreadful crime.
Then on March 8, 2011, there was a shocking development in the case. Andy, now a U.K. resident in the Hertfordshire town of Stevenage, posted a dramatic message to his Facebook account. “I will be arrested today at [sic] the murder of my sister,” he wrote. “I confessed, will get in contact soon.”
Shortly after making the post, Andy then handed himself in at the local police station – where he was promptly arrested. And after a hearing at Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London, he was extradited to the Netherlands to stand trial for the murder of his stepsister. However, on April 1 a Dutch judge in Den Bosch ordered Andy’s release, citing a lack of evidence linking him to the killing of Nicole.
Now while Ad initially doubted his son’s confession, telling Dutch media from his new home in Spain that it was a case of “begging for attention,” he later came to believe Andy’s guilt. His by-now ex-wife, Jolanda, however, did not agree. At any rate, on April 5 Andy was released from custody – only to make another startling revelation just a few days later.
This time Andy claimed that he was in fact innocent of the crime. Instead, he voiced his suspicions that his father was responsible for Nicole’s death – and that Ad had previously raped the teen, leaving her pregnant with his child. And so although Ad denied these claims, the investigation gained pace once more.
In September that year, Nicole’s remains were exhumed and sent to the Netherlands Forensic Institute in The Hague for examination. Yet while experts were successful in extracting three different kinds of DNA, not all were conclusive, and the case came to a standstill. In fact, it would take more than two years for an arrest to be made.
In January 2014, police detained a 46-year-old known only as Jos de G., from the Dutch city of Helmond, in connection with the crime. Apparently, they had been able to identify some DNA found on Nicole’s body as belonging to De G., who had three previous convictions for rape. At a previous court appearance, De G. had been described as “a vessel overflowing with hate.” Finally, then, in November 2015, the trial for the murder of Nicole van den Hurk began, some 20 years after her death.
Still, things did not go smoothly. De G.’s defense lawyer contended that DNA from other individuals had also been found on Nicole’s body – including traces, it was claimed, belonging to both Andy and Nicole’s boyfriend of the time. And because of the inconclusive evidence, in a verdict announced in November 2016, De G. escaped a manslaughter charge. Instead, he was sentenced to just five years in prison for rape, on the grounds that he was considered legally insane when the offense was committed.
While De G. was on trial, Andy, meanwhile, made yet another revelation, claiming that he had only confessed to the crime in order to get Nicole’s body exhumed – and thus the investigation reopened. But with experts still unable to rule out his DNA from Nicole’s remains and the murder claim and counter-claim with his own father, does he know more than he is letting on? The whole truth may never be known.