Homophobia hindered the investigation, but Jaap Bornkamp’s death helped change gay rights rules.
52-year-old Jacob Bornkamp, known as Jaap, was exactly where he wanted to be in life. The Dutch native was creating stunning flower displays for the Royal Family and nobility, and he was in a relationship with the man he loved.
“He once picked us up at the airport wearing snake leather boots, camo trousers and a big white fur coat. Jaap was not your regular florist.” — Hilgert Bos, Jaap’s nephew told The Mirror.
In 1967, Jaap had moved from Rotterdam to London, to pursue his career in floristry. The 19-year-old found work at Pulbrook and Gould, whose clients included aristocracy and politicians, including Margaret Thatcher. At 32, Jaap met Danny and the pair eventually started their own florist in London, where he created arrangements for the Queen, and on the 6th of September 1997, his flowers filled Westminster Abbey, for Princess Diana’s funeral.
On the 4th of June 2000, Jaap and his friend, Richard, were walking through New Cross, London, after leaving the 24-hour gay sauna, 309. It was around 7.00 am when two stocky men walked past the pair. They stopped and assaulted Jaap and his friend in an unprovoked attack. Jaap was stabbed in the heart and succumbed to his injuries in Lewisham hospital a few hours later, while Richard survived.
The attack was treated as homophobic, and the investigation started quickly. The CCTV footage that investigators obtained was of poor quality, and with NASA’s help to sharpen the video, two men were later arrested but were released without charge. The man and cyclist who stopped to help the victims were also never identified.
The case was included on the UK’s Crimewatch programme twice. It received a lot of media attention due to the nature of the crime and Jaap’s relationship to the Royal Family, but two years later and there were still no developments in the case.
“We have been unable to establish a clear motive but we are treating it as a homophobic crime. We hope to make a breakthrough this year. Maybe loyalties have changed and the other man, who did not stab Jaap, could now come forward.” — Detective Inspector Julian Wyard in a 2002 interview in NewsShopper.
The murder was described in a 2007 report written by the independent Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Group, as a ‘turning point’ for the relationship between the police and London’s gay community.
The report read, “There were several investigations where we have deep reservations about the way in which the identity of the victim informed investigative decisions at the time. We also found evidence of inappropriate attitudes to the circumstances of some murders.”
Jaap’s murder was included in the report as one of the five unsolved murders that had a fragmented inquiry to solve it. Jaap’s partner Danny even offered a £20,000 reward for any information leading to the identity of the two assailants, but the incentive remained unclaimed.
Danny wrote to the prime minister, Tony Blair, who was still in office, asking to him review and revise the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority scheme, that only paid compensation to same-sex couples.
Stonewall, an LGBT rights charity, was already speaking to the prime minister and campaigning loudly about the CICA rules. Just the year before, the bombing at the Admiral Duncan pub had occurred, and it highlighted the unfairness of the ruling when the husband of a pregnant woman who was killed received compensation, but the partners of the men who died didn’t receive anything from the scheme.
In 2001, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority’s rules were amended, allowing partners in same-sex relationships to receive pay-outs. Danny became the first gay man to receive compensation from the scheme.
“Marriage wasn’t available to me and Jaap then, but I would definitely have gone for that. I knew that we would be together for life. It’s been a huge loss for me and I miss him awfully. I had a bad time when it happened, it was like a nightmare.” — Danny told The Mirror.
Jaap Bornkamp was buried at Beckenham Cemetery and Crematorium in London. His grave is guarded by a stone Great Dane. The Metropolitan police say that the case is still open and is reviewed periodically.