Two bodies found in a drainage pipe near the river Rhine on Sunday are those of missing brothers Ruben, 9, and Julian, 7, police confirmed on Sunday evening.
The boys have been missing since May 7 when their father picked them up for a holiday. He killed himself in woods near Utrecht and was found 13 days ago. Since then police and volunteers been involved in a massive hunt to find the boys.
The hunt also spread to Germany and Belgium in an effort to track down the route the father had driven from their home in Zeist to Doorn near Utrecht where his body was found.
Zeist mayor Koos Janssen told the news conference there are no words to describe the ‘unmeasurable grief’ of the boy’s mother, Iris. The boys’ parents were divorced.
Experts are now working to find out how the boys died but say it will be extremely complex given the bodies have been in the water for almost two weeks. Cothen, where the bodies were found, is just a few kilometres south of Doorn.
Police were tipped off by a passer-by that there was something in the pipe which led from a ditch under the road. At first it appeared one body was in the water, but it later transpired there were two, police said.
Officials praised the role of social media like Facebook and Twitter in the search for the missing brothers. ‘We have deep respect for the interactive way people helped’ Janssen said.
The family used their social media pages to thank the hundreds of well-wishers who have contacted them, which they called ‘tiny lights of hope’, news agency ANP said.
During the investigation it emerged that the family has been in touch with social workers since the parent’s ‘difficult divorce’ in 2008.
According to the NRC, at least 10 official bodies have been involved with the family and there were concerns the children were suffering mentally because of their parent’s constant conflict.
On April 22, the parents were told the child protection authority planned to place the boys under its supervision to ensure ‘a stable, predictable and calm’ situation.
A meeting to discuss the report had been scheduled for May 7, the day the father’s body was found, the NRC said.
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