The four-year-old boy who went missing with his babysitter last week was found dead in the Netherlands on Monday night, Dutch police confirmed.
The young boy, Dean Verberckmoes, was last seen in Sint-Niklaas in East Flanders last Wednesday morning. He was found dead in the Dutch province of Zeeland.
"We have just found the lifeless body of a child in Vrouwenpolder in the search for the 4-year-old Belgian boy Dean. A 34-year-old suspect was arrested earlier today," the Zeeland police, which launched a search for the missing pair after it received a message from police in Belgium on Sunday that they may be in the country, stated on Twitter on Monday night.
The suspect is Dave De Kock, who was reported missing with the child and is the partner of a friend of the child's mother. For medical reasons, the mother was not able to look after the boy last week and asked De Kock and her friend to look after him for one night, according to reports from Het Gazet van Antwerpen.
The child was expected to be at the grandparents the following day but was never dropped off.
Amber Alert search
On Monday, a suspicious situation was reported in Meerkerk, a 1.5-hour drive from where the young boy's body was found, the Zeeland-West Brabant police said. Upon arrival at the location, De Kock was found but the young boy was not with him.
"He was arrested and taken to the police station. Further investigation showed that he had left his car in Gorinchem. The car was impounded for further investigation," a police statement read. As it was unlikely the boy would be in the nearby area, the police activated the Amber Alert.
Later in the evening, a possible crime scene was identified and, at around 22:00, they found a lifeless child's body. This will be examined by a forensic doctor.
Record of child abuse
It has now been reported that De Kock was previously sentenced to ten years in prison in 2010 for the fatal abuse of his 2-year-old stepson.
De Kock was imprisoned for abuse resulting in death but without the intention of killing, as the public prosecutor did not deem it murder at the time.
Prison staff asked for De Kock to be placed in a psychiatric institution between 2010 and 2015 because of drug addiction. But due to insufficient capacity, this request was not granted. Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne stated that there is still no place for such high-level criminals.
"We have to invest much more in care. It is a responsibility of Justice, but also of the Minister of Public Health and the State Ministers, to provide places in psychiatric wards for such inmates as these," he told Radio 1.
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Van Quickenborne calls for urgent action for a more tailored approach for high-risk profiles such as De Kock. He also calls for greater investment in preventing criminals from reoffending.
An additional 200 people will be employed in the prison system to provide care and treatment, along with detention supervisors. "This is a person who must individually accompany prisoners to help them integrate better."
Van Quickenborne added that De Kock will later be extradited to Belgium.