Dutch teenagers, father on trial for death of linesman
The trial begins on Wednesday of seven Dutch teens and a father charged with kicking to death an amateur football linesman last year, a killing that sent shockwaves around the Netherlands and the world.
Linesman Richard Nieuwenhuizen, 41, died in December after he was allegedly kicked several times in the head by enraged youth players shortly after the final whistle at an amateur game.
Nieuwenhuizen died shortly afterwards in hospital, leading to much soul-searching in the football-mad Netherlands, while the teenaged boys and one of their fathers were charged with manslaughter.
In a surprise development, a renowned British pathologist will testify that the victim may have died of other causes.
“An independent pathologist is to testify that his investigation found that the linesman may have died of a number of causes including a spontaneous tear in his carotid artery,” defence lawyer Sydney Smeets said.
The left and right carotid arteries deliver blood to the brain through the sides of the neck.
Dutch media said Christopher Milroy, a former chief forensic pathologist in Britain who is now a forensic pathology professor at Ottawa University in Canada, found an anomaly in the artery that in rare cases could lead to death.
“Therefore, what we’re saying is that there is no reason to believe that Richard Nieuwenhuizen died as a result of kicks he may have received, but could have died of many other causes,” Smeets said ahead of the trial, which is to begin later on Wednesday in Lelystad, northeast of Amsterdam.
Milroy is one of four expert witnesses - two requested by the defence and two for the prosecution -- to take the stand on Wednesday, the Public Prosecutor’s office confirmed.
The Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI), which conducted part of the autopsy, concluded however in its report that it was “highly likely that the linesman died of kicks to the head and neck” during the December 2 assault, the NRC newspaper reported.
The seven youths and one man, identified only as El-Hasan D., 51, were subsequently arrested and charged.
The youths and El-Hasan are charged with manslaughter, public violence and brutality. Six youths, aged between 16 and 17 at the time, as well as El-Hasan, have been held in custody pending the hearing while a seventh teenager, aged 15, was freed but faces similar charges.
All eight are connected to, or are members of, the Nieuw Sloten football club, which played against Nieuwenhuizen’s Buitenboys Club in Almere, just east of Amsterdam, when the attack occurred.
Nieuwenhuizen officiated as a linesman in the under-17 match, in which his own son also played, and was set upon immediately after by members of the Nieuw Sloten club. He was allegedly kicked several times in the head but got up and went home.
He became ill a few hours later and died the following day in hospital with his family at his side.
The linesman’s death horrified the Netherlands, where 1.2 million people out of a population of 16.5 million are members of the national football federation KNVB. Around the country signs were put up which read in Dutch: “Zonder respect geen voetbal” -“Without respect, no football”.
Teams at the Club World Cup in Japan held a moment of silence in Nieuwenhuizen’s memory before the tournament kicked off.
Should the teenage suspects be found guilty, they could face between one and two years behind bars in a special facility for children.
The maximum punishment for homicide for adults is 15 years in jail.