Man arrested in Gino case had earlier convictions for abuse

Police search the suspect's home. Photo: Rob Engelaar ANP
Police search the suspect’s home. Photo: Rob Engelaar ANP

The 22-year-old man arrested in connection with the disappearance and death of a nine-year-old boy had an earlier conviction for threatening and abusing boys when he was 17, Dutch media have reported.

Donny M, who will appear in court for a remand hearing on Tuesday or Wednesday, had threatened and attacked two boys in Sittard in June 2017 and abused at least one of them, local broadcaster L1 said, on the basis of court documents.

Phil Boonen, a lawyer for one of the victims, has also confirmed that M was convicted. ‘I remember the case very clearly,’ he told broadcaster NOS. ‘My clients and this sort of case always get to you.’

According to L1, M was sentenced to five months youth detention and clinical treatment for those crimes. He also has other convictions, including driving without a licence, L1 said.

M, described as friendly but a loner by neighbours, was arrested at his home in Geelen in the early hours of Saturday morning. Shortly afterwards, police found the body of Gino van der Straeten who had disappeared on Wednesday evening after going to meet other children in a playground in Kerkrade.

He usually lived with his mother in Maastricht but had been lodging with his older sister Kelly for the past week because she was ill.

‘The family are devasted,’ spokeswoman Judy op het Veld from victim support group Slachterofferhulp told reporters this weekend. ‘They have been on a roller coaster for the past few days. They have a lot of support from people and organisations but that cannot take away their immense grief.’

Child abductions and murders are extremely rare in the Netherlands. Figures from national statistics agency CBS show that in the five years to 2020, 31 children were murdered in the Netherlands, 16 boys and 15 girls. Nearly all were killed by a parent.

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