Deventer murder case laid to rest as Supreme Court backs verdict


The Supreme Court has closed a murder case that has been running for nearly 25 years after upholding the conviction of a financial adviser who killed his client in 1999.

Ernest Louwes always protested his innocence of the murder of 60-year-old widow Jacqueline Wittenberg in Deventer, but the country’s highest court rejected a petition to reopen the case following an investigation by a cold case team.

The case became a cause célèbre after it was taken up by opinion pollster Maurice de Hond, who ran a high-profile media campaign identifying a handyman as the “real” murderer.

De Hond recruited other Dutch celebrities, including comedian Claudia de Breij, for his campaign, which only ended when a court ruled he had libelled the workman and threatened De Hond with a conditional fine if he repeated the claim.

The case was also the subject of a film, De Veroordeling, and an award-winning podcast, De Deventer Mediazaak, with the latter focusing on both the murder and the campaign by De Hond.

Louwes’s lawyer, Geert-Jan Knoops, asked the Supreme Court to order a review of the case, arguing that an investigation by Amsterdam police’s cold case team had found new evidence that cast doubt on his client’s conviction.

But the court found that DNA evidence found on the victim’s blouse was enough to support the conviction, while a forensic investigation and telephone records of conversations between Louwes and Mrs Wittenberg also indicated he was the killer.

Louwes will not return to prison as he has already served the 12-year prison sentence the appeal court imposed in 2000. The district court in Zwolle had originally acquitted him of the murder in 1999, ruling the evidence was inconclusive.

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