A 54-year-old man has died after setting himself on fire in front of Oss town hall in Noord-Brabant following a year-long conflict with the local council.
Arie den Dekker received several threats against his life after giving evidence to the police after he witnessed the aftermath of a gangland killing in June 2018. In one incident, his house was destroyed by a fire which killed his dogs, after which he was placed in a witness protection programme.
After failing to stick to the programme conditions because he could not cope with the loneliness and being moved from temporary home to temporary home, he was banned by Oss mayor Wobine Buijs-Glaudemans from returning to his home town because he was a ‘danger to the public’.
That position has since been overturned, but Den Dekker remained homeless, living for a while with a blind friend, and waging a campaign against the council for failing to help him.
Buijs-Glaudemans said in a video statement on Tuesday that it was ‘terrible’ that the council had not been able to help Den Dekker. Efforts to help him involving council officials, the police and public prosecution department had taken ‘a lot of time… a lot of effort from everyone and a lot of money’, the mayor said.
Den Dekker’s lawyer told broadcaster NOS that the council had failed in its duties. ‘They did not take into account the type of man Den Dekker was and what he had gone through,’ Richard Laatsman said.
He had a troubled past, including drug addiction, but the death of his two dogs had hit him hard, lawyer Laatsman told NOS. ‘He wanted a home for himself and his four dogs,’ Laatsman said. ‘He told me that he would be happy in a converted shipping container so he would have his privacy and his dogs.’
Den Dekker, who was unable to read or write, told the NRC in an interview earlier this month that he was not the sort of person to talk to the police but had decided to do so after witnessing cars leaving the scene of a shooting in 2018.
‘I would never do it again,’ he told the paper. ‘Even if they shoot everyone in Oss dead, they won’t hear from me another time.’
MPs have since called on justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus to make a statement about the death.