In Netherlands, New Evidence in the Deventer Murder Case

From the Knoops Innocence Project in the Netherlands:

Further research into Deventer Murder Case

On Monday July 7, 2014, Attorney General D.J.C. Aben of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands granted a request for further research in the Deventer Murder case. The request was submitted by Mr. G.G.J. Knoops and P.B.A. Acda of the Knoops’ Innocence Project on March 21, 2013.

Under a new law, which was enacted in the Netherlands on October 1, 2012, it is possible to request the Attorney General to conduct further research into a case, if there are “indications” that a novum exists. A novum is necessary to successfully reopen a criminal case before the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. It is a new “finding” that was not known to the judge, and this finding must be of such a nature, that if the judge was aware thereof, it would have most likely resulted in a different verdict.

A request for further research on the basis of “indications that a novum exists” must be directed at the Attorney General, who has the authority to initiate a new investigation if he beliefs that there are sufficient indications of a novum.

The defense team of Ernest Louwes in the Deventer Murder case established sufficient indications, upon which the Attorney General decided to have the case re-investigated. The new research will focus on three aspects: the blouse of the victim, telephone data between the victim and Mr. Louwes and the time of death estimation.

The blouse of the victim

Small traces of touch DNA were recovered from the blouse of the victim, which traces turned out to match with Mr. Louwes. Louwes, who worked as a tax consultant of the victim, had visited her on the morning of the murder.

The defense team convincingly argued, on the basis of new forensic reports prepared by two DNA experts from the United States, that Louwes’ DNA on the victim’s blouse was the result of a peaceful (instead of a violent) encounter between the two. The defense could only do so after a lawsuit against the State because the Dutch Forensic Institute was initially unwilling to provide the underlying forensic data.

The Attorney General has requested the Dutch Forensic Institute to comment on the new DNA reports. If the Dutch Forensic Institute agrees with the “peaceful contact claim” the reports will be submitted to a third independent DNA expert for further examination.

Telephone data

The defense, backed by forensic experts, demonstrated in its request for further investigation that the telephone data used to convict Mr. Louwes, were wrongly interpreted. Louwes’ mobile telephone communicated with a base station near the crime scene. This “evidence” was used to convict Mr. Louwes. The judges did not know, however, that the “evidence” was presented without an accurate report on the weather conditions at that time, which may explain why a mobile phone does not communicate with the nearest base station.

Mr. Louwes has always claimed that he was in a traffic jam at the “alleged” time of the murder. This was, according to the Prosecutor and appellate judges, an indication of his “deceptiveness”, as it did not correspond with the telephone data. Yet, as it turns out now, the precise location of Mr. Louwes at that time could have caused a mobile phone to communicate with a base station further away than the one expected (i.e. the nearest station). The fact that there was a traffic jam had not been on the news, so this de facto supported the story of Mr. Louwes, as it was insider information.

The Attorney General has now decided to (re)investigate the impact of the weather conditions and the geographical position of Mr. Louwes at that time on the likelihood of communicating with a base station further away than expected in the case of Mr. Louwes.

Time of Death Estimation

According to Dutch forensic experts, certain marks on the victim’s body signaled that the initially accepted time of death estimation was incorrect. The time of death was supposedly later than the time of death assumed by the appellate court. The Attorney General will appoint a team to investigate to what extent different experts diverge or correspond in their professional opinions in this regard.

The Knoops’ Innocence Project has been investigating the Deventer Murder case since 2003. Mr. Louwes was acquitted by the lower court in 2000, the Court of Appeals in Arnhem convicted him in 2001. In 2003, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands granted a request for review on the basis of wrongfully conducted dog scent line ups. Yet, the Court of Appeals in Den Bosch, who was appointed to retry the case, convicted him again. In 2007, a new request for review was submitted to the Supreme Court; this request was rejected in 2008. This is the first request for further investigation in this case under the new law.

Knoops’ Innocence Project

G.G.J. Knoops, Counsel
P.B.A. Acda, Counsel

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