When 15-year-old Nicole Van Den Hurk was murdered in the Netherlands in 1995, her family hoped police would act quickly to find the culprit and bring them to justice. However, as the years went by and leads dried up, they began to fear the schoolgirl’s memory was fading and the killer would never be caught.
But Nicole’s stepbrother Andy knew new technology could help investigators solve the murder mystery — and he had one heck of a risky plan to prove it. This is the remarkable story of how a brother’s enduring loyalty put a dangerous criminal behind bars.
Nicole’s disappearance It was October 6th 1995, and Nicole Van Den Hurk had stayed the night at her grandmother’s before cycling to work at a nearby shopping centre. Perhaps she was a little on edge that morning, as she had complained to her aunt just a day earlier that an unnamed man had harassed her on her way home.
Nevertheless, the teenager dutifully set off to her job — but she never arrived. The police were swiftly called, and Nicole’s bicycle was located discarded by a river that evening. There was still no trace of Nicole herself, and an intensive search began to locate the youngster. It wasn’t until November 22nd 1995 that a walker made a tragic discovery in the woods between Mierlo and Lierop: Nicole’s body. She had been raped, and an autopsy concluded she had suffered a fractured jaw, injuries to her head and fingers, and a stab wound from a small knife that had likely been fatal.
An investigation going nowhere The Dutch authorities struggled to find any leads, and they arrested Nicole’s stepfather and stepbrother Andy Van Den Hurk in the summer of 1996. However, the move seems to have been an act of desperation, as they were quickly cleared of any wrongdoing and swiftly released. To add insult to injury, the number of detectives working Nicole’s case was cut and, apart from a brief review in 2004, slowly went cold. By 2011, Andy had moved to England to start a new life, but he remained tormented by his beloved sister’s killer getting away with murder.
What’s more, he must have known that had newly emerging DNA techniques been available back in 1995, the perpetrator would likely already be behind bars. A gamble — that paid off So, Andy hatched a plan to jolt the investigation back to life. Nicole had been buried in the Netherlands not long after her murder, and he knew that in the absence of any new evidence, she would remain in the cemetery — as would any precious DNA material buried with her. The caring stepbrother therefore created a new lead — by handing himself in to Stevenage Police on March 8th 2011 and getting himself re-arrested. In a post on his Facebook page, he said: “I will be arrested today at [sic] the murder of my sister.
I confessed. Will get in contact soon.” Investigators were dumbfounded and Dutch police began extradition proceedings, unsure whether Andy was responsible or not. Upon his return to the Netherlands, it quickly became clear that Andy remained innocent and he was once again released. But the plan worked: the authorities agreed to re-open the case and see what DNA evidence remained with Nicole’s body. When asked why he falsely confessed, Andy commented: “I wanted to get her exhumed and get DNA off her. I kind of set myself up and it could have gone horribly wrong. To get her exhumed I had to put steps in place and said I did it. She is my sister. I miss her every day.” Andy Van Den Hurk (Image: Twitter) The real culprit is caught Nicole’s remains were examined for genetic material and, incredibly, scientists in New Zealand were able to use pioneering techniques to discover DNA belonging to three different men. The first was Nicole’s boyfriend, who was never a suspect. The second was from an unknown profile — and the third was from a convicted rapist named as Jos de G (suspects are not identified by their full names in the Netherlands).
The 46-year-old had by this time been convicted for rape three times, with one in 2001 resulting in compulsory psychiatric treatment. That case was startlingly similar to Nicole’s: the young woman had been grabbed from her bicycle, taken to a remote area and sexually assaulted. The only difference was that he didn’t kill her. De G’s psychological evaluation from the time was quoted by NL Times as saying that he was “a vessel overflowing with hate” who could offend again if “not adequately addressed”. What was more, the suspect was known to have fought with his ex-girlfriend on the day Nicole disappeared, storming from her home just a few hours before the abduction. Dutch police arrested and charged De G with rape and murder, but the fight for justice still wasn’t over.
On November 21st 2016, he was sensationally acquitted of murder and found guilty only of rape. The sentence was just five years in prison. The case in court Although the jury had been unanimous in agreeing De G raped Nicole and did not believe his version of events — he claimed he might have had
Although the jury had been unanimous in agreeing De G raped Nicole and did not believe his version of events — he claimed he might have had consensual sex with her, but he couldn’t remember — the unknown DNA was a sticking point. They said they had been forced to consider the possibility that there was another person involved in the murder and, as such, could not convict De G as culpable. Nicole’s stepmother Jolanda van der Weijden, who had been hoping alongside the prosecution for a 14-year sentence, sobbed in court and shouted: “What if this would happen to your children? This is simply unbelievable!” Appeal success — but a toll is taken An appeal was mounted, and at last prosecutors were able to convince the court that De G raped Nicole and murdered her to prevent her telling the police what had happened. Crucially, no importance was placed upon the unidentified third sample of DNA, which, it was argued, could have come from anywhere.
Jos de G was sentenced in 2018 to 12 years imprisonment for the rape and manslaughter of Nicole Van Den Hurk, more than 20 years after her brutal death. Tragically, despite his bravery in getting Nicole’s case re-opened and finally solved, it was reported in 2021 that her stepbrother Andy had taken his own life at his home in England. His Facebook legacy page would seem to support this, with his final post on August 25th 2021 alluding to his impending suicide and stating: “I’m ready to say goodbye.”
This remarkable and poignant case truly demonstrates the cost of murder and injustice that can be wrought on those left behind, even after the killer is behind bars. Nacole Smith Cold Case Murder Solved at Last It was 26 years before the teenager’s family were able to learn who killed her.