'Tougher punishment needed': Mother of De Kock's previous victim in disbelief

'Tougher punishment needed': Mother of De Kock's previous victim in disbelief
Flowers and teddy bears outside the home of four-year-old Dean Verberckmoes. Credit: Belga

The mother of a two-year-old boy killed by Dave De Kock more than a decade ago has responded in disbelief that he was able to strike again. De Kock is suspected of murdering four-year-old Dean Verberckmoes, whose body was found on Monday evening in The Netherlands.

The discovery came several days after Dean went missing with De Kock, who was looking after the boy. In 2010, De Kock had been sentenced to ten years in prison for inhumane treatment resulting in the death of the two-year-old toddler, Miguel Van Kriekinge, the son of his girlfriend at the time, Sandra Verbeek.

De Kock was reportedly very close to the child, resulting in Verbeek trusting him, but he later abused the toddler for several days in a row. Hearing the news of Dean's death, Verbeek said she was unable to understand how history was allowed to repeat itself, despite De Kock serving ten years in prison.

"I don't understand that he still behaves like that and can be so manipulative and twist people around his finger. I am in disbelief that it has now happened again," Verbeek told the regional broadcaster RTV.

She had hoped that De Kock would have learned from his mistakes during his time in prison. "I don't understand why they couldn't have intervened sooner or guided him better. They should not have released him or given him a much harsher sentence."

Delayed implementation of protective measures

De Kock left prison in 2018, without any conditions attached to his release. This is less likely to happen today, according to Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne. Speaking to The Brussels Times, Van Quickenborne's spokesperson Edward Landtsheere explained that today, convicted people are supervised by the criminal court for up to 15 years after a sentence has expired.

"The problem here is that this measure, which previously only applied to high-profile cases such as that of serial killer Marc Dutroux, could only be implemented after De Kock's sentencing," he told The Brussels Times.

Landtsheere stressed that this is an important instrument that is in place now to protect society from people who commit crimes while suffering from a serious disorder or lack of development. The justice ministry is looking to extend the measure.

Systematic psychiatric help

The justice ministry asserts that preventing such cases is not simply down to them; De Kock had asked for psychiatric help on multiple occasions while in prison. This was not granted, reportedly because there was no room in the suitable facilities.

A judge can rule that someone is not responsible for their own actions and sentence them to internment in Forensic Psychiatric Centres (FPC). Belgium has two such high-security institutions where mental-health treatment is given to internees on a daily basis.

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However, for people who have been declared culpable and still have psychiatric problems, there are no suitable institutions, Landtsheere explained.

To this end, the Belgian Government is creating the position of detention supervisors, who will be in addition to conventional prison guards and will give one-to-one guidance to prisoners from day one until the day they are released. This system will be trialled in the prison in Haren, expected to open in September of this year; 60% of staff will be detention supervisors.

Landtsheere added that there is a broader responsibility, from the various regions and communities in Belgium, as well as the public health ministry, to "provide the same level of care behind bars as in society as a whole."

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