There's been a lot of news lately about how new DNA technology and how genealogy is breaking cold cases wide open these days. This case is a great example of how it might be used to rule a specific suspect out. The story of the murder of Nicole van den Hurk is one that is both tragic and heroic. She was only 15 years old when she was murdered in 1995 in the Netherlands. Initially, the spotlight was put on her brother and her stepfather, who had been raising her since her mother had taken her own life. After being cleared of the killings, in a shocking twist, her brother would confess to killing Nicole - but not because he was guilty. He wanted DNA testing to be done that could confirm the identity of the true killer so he falsely confessed. But would it confirm many people’s suspicion or point investigators in a new direction?
Nicole van den Hurk was a 15-year-old girl who didn’t deserve any of this. She was this stunning young lady with beautiful blonde curly hair and bright blue eyes who had her whole future ahead of her at the time.
However, even in the years leading up to her murder, things were never easy for Nicole van den Hurk. Born on July 4th, 1980 to her mother Angelika Tegtmeier and an unknown man in Germany, Nicole would never grow up with her birth father. Actually, at the time that she was born, her mother wasn’t completely sure who had fathered her. She decided to have a blood test done when Nicole was one year old, which identified a married man that lived in the same community. While his name would be added to her birth certificate, he wasn’t really involved in any capacity in Nicole’s life.
Angelika would raise Nicole as a single mother for the first few years until she met a Dutchman name Ad Van Den Hurk. The couple would get married and move to the Netherlands, where he would raise Nicole like his own child. Unfortunately, the marriage was very short-lived, and when Nicole was 9 years old, her mother and stepfather divorced. It’s unclear to me exactly what Angelika’s living situation was, but for some reason, this man was awarded custody of Nicole. It is rare for a judge to award custody to a non-biological male who is divorcing the child’s biological mother.
Now living with her stepfather in the Netherlands, a new stepmother named Jolanda would eventually come along, as well as some new stepsiblings. I couldn’t find any indication that her life growing up was anything other than typical.
That is until 1995. For Nicole, it was the worst kind of year a person could experience. In April of 1995, her mother, who she had become somewhat estranged from, had taken her own life. This would have been really difficult for Nicole, who was now 15 years old and could have really used her mother’s presence in her life.
And then, later that fall, Nicole would vanish. The date was October 6th, 1995 and Nicole went to visit her grandmother earlier in the day before heading over to work her part-time shift at a bakery. She took off on her bicycle from her grandmother’s home, but she would never make it to work. Her boss tried to call her at home, but she wasn’t there. When her parents learned that Nicole had never made it to work, they phone the police immediately. At around 6 pm, the local police force launched a small search of the neighborhood. It didn’t take them too long to make a shocking discovery - Nicole’s bicycle was partially submerged in the river. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Nicole nearby, and no other clues were found that might point to what happened to her.
Neighbors, friends and family would gather together each day with the police to search for Nicole for the next 11 days. They searched the rest of the river, the forest surrounding the river and all of the local teen hangout spots. No one had seen or heard from Nicole since the day she left for work. Then, approximately two weeks since she went missing, her backpack was located near Eindhoven’s canal, which was maybe a five-minute drive from where her bike had been found. They tried to use scent dogs with the backpack to see if they might be able to find a lead - but no such luck.
The local news stations began airing Nicole’s story along with her description and photo. Authorities opened a tip line and they received so many calls, allegedly over 300 reported sightings and tips flooded their office. Sadly none of them would be helpful to find Nicole. The police began to wonder if anything criminal had happened to Nicole at all - or if perhaps she had run away back to her home country, Germany.
And then, on November 22nd, 1995, a month and a half since Nicole disappeared, a walker discovered her body near a walking path in the forest that wasn’t too far from her grandmother’s house. She had been beaten, stabbed and sexually assaulted. In addition to the stab wounds, an autopsy would reveal two jaw fractures, severe head trauma, a broken ribcage and defence wounds on her hands and fingers. Whatever had happened to Nicole, she had fought for her life. While her official cause of death has never been revealed, it is likely that she died due to internal bleeding from her injuries.
Even with the massive amount of tips that had been called in, the police had very few suspects to look at. There may have been DNA on her body from the assault, but it was never collected because the technology to test it didn’t exist. Perhaps it was due to their inexperience with such a serious case, but the police completely botched this investigation. It’s unclear whether they simply didn’t have solid information to follow or whether they just failed to do the legwork.
Either way, after a few weeks passed and Nicole’s murder came to a standstill, the pressure to get this case solved was on. Locals were terrified that there was a predator on the loose who was targeting young teen girls. A suspect had to be identified and an arrest had to be made, quickly.
There was one person they briefly looked at in connection to the murder - a long-time family friend who had been arrested for drug trafficking. Celine Hartogs claimed that she knew who had killed Nicole - it was a man that she had been working for previously. The police tried to find a connection between this person and Nicole, however, ultimately it was determined to be a lie.
Then, in a surprising turn of events, Nicole’s stepfather and stepbrother, Ad and Andy van den Hurk, were arrested in the summer of 1996 in connection to her murder. It’s unclear if there was a specific reason they were suspected, or if police were throwing things at the wall to see what stuck, so to speak.
The arrests were very brief, as they didn’t have enough evidence to hold them there. Police would eventually clear both Nicole’s stepfather and her stepbrother Andy of any wrongdoing. Then the case went cold. Budgets were cut, resources were limited and Nicole’s murder investigation went very quiet. This didn’t stop her family from continuing to pursue answers and advocate for Nicole. They would keep in regular contact with the team of four investigators still working on her case. When her stepbrother, Andy, saw that no progress was being made, he did something that no one could have predicted. He confessed to Nicole’s murder. Well, kind of.
16 years after his stepsister’s death, Andy, who was now living abroad in England, wrote in a Facebook post,
“I will be arrested today at the murder of my sister, I confessed will get in contact soon.” | AllThatsInteresting.com
Obviously, a post like this spread like wildlife through social media and it wasn’t long before the police were knocking on Andy’s door with an arrest warrant. That was okay, according to Andy, he had planned for this to happen. Over the last several years, he had tried to move forward with his life without ever knowing who had killed his stepsister. The thought that maybe the killer could have been his father, and Nicole’s stepfather, Ad - and the not knowing, was driving him crazy. He became obsessed with the idea that Ad may have sexually assaulted Nicole, and then killed her when she became pregnant. Ad denied this, instead pointing the finger right back at Andy.
One really frustrating aspect of this case is that at the time of Nicole’s murder, there hadn’t been any DNA collected from her body because the technology wasn’t there to test it against a system or potential suspects. However, now, technology had advanced enough to do just this.
Sadly, Nicole’s unsolved cold case murder wasn’t necessarily a priority for police anymore, as it had happened some ago. So, Andy decided to falsely confess to Nicole’s murder in order to bring new information to the police that would force them to exhume Nicole’s body. Nicole had been buried in the Netherlands with any evidence on her body buried with her. Once Andy had been extradited back to the Netherlands, he told investigators that he was innocent and pleaded with them to exhume his stepsister’s body.
In a later media interview, Andy would say,
"I wanted to get her exhumed and get DNA off her. I kind of set myself up and it could have gone horribly wrong. To get her exhumed I had to put steps in place to get her exhumed. I went to police and said I did it. She is my sister, absolutely. I miss her every day." | stuff.co.nz
This was incredibly brazen. Andy had previously been arrested for Nicole’s murder, meaning at least at one point in time the police really believed he killed his sister. This plan of his could have gone terribly wrong, with him spending the rest of his life behind bars for a murder that he did not commit. Luckily for him, investigators agreed to re-open Nicole’s murder case and exhume her body to collect any DNA that might still be on her. They didn’t have any reason to continue holding Andy, so they released him from custody while they re-opened Nicole’s investigation.
Her body was exhumed and they were able to find and collect a single trace of sperm that contained the DNA of three different males. New technology was used to identify one of the samples as belonging to Nicole’s boyfriend, who was never identified as a suspect by authorities. The second DNA profile belonged to an unnamed man, who is alleged to be Andy, though I have not seen it confirmed. Andy would later say he has no idea how his DNA would end up in this sample and confirmed he was cleared of killing Nicole. The third DNA sample belonged to a 46-year-old convicted rapist from the Netherlands known as Jos de G. For some reason, the Netherlands has a policy of publishing the names of victims but not of suspects, even ones who are convicted for their crimes.
Jos de G. denied every meeting or knowing Nicole. He denied having relations with her - but added, that if they did it was consensual. He had previously been to jail for grabbing a 20-year-old woman off of her bicycle in a remote area, and then sexually assaulting her. Does any of this sound familiar to you? 15-year-old Nicole was riding her bike to work when she was murdered. Jos de G. had also been convicted of sexually abusing his ex-girlfriend twice at her house. All in all, he had previously been convicted of three sexual assaults and served three years in jail, as well as been ordered to attend treatment.
On the evening that Nicole was murdered, October 6th of 1995, Jos de G. was at his ex-girlfriend's home when the pair had a huge fight, and he took off. This all happened only a few hours before Nicole would be leaving for her shift at the mall. The prosecution alleged that after he had stormed out of his ex’s house, he decided to take out his frustration on an unsuspecting victim. He waited and watched until Nicole came along on her bicycle on her way to work. He grabbed her off of her bicycle and assaulted her - then he panicked. He had already been convicted of a very similar crime, if he were to be arrested again his life would be over. So, he killed Nicole so that she could not go to the police to report what had happened to her.
Again - the defence team denied this, with the accused saying that he didn’t even remember ever meeting Nicole, however, the two may have had consensual sex a few days prior to her murder, which would account for his DNA found on her body.
The prosecution had two surprise witnesses who would testify that Jos de G. told them in two separate incidents that he had assaulted and killed a girl. One of the witnesses met the accused while they were both at a mental institution. According to this witness, he had relations with Nicole and when she laughed at the size of his anatomy, he got angry and strangled her. The second witness had a very similar account. While he did not name his victim, this witness said the accused told him straight up that he killed someone and got away with it.
While Jos de G. was initially charged with murder and rape, in a shocking turn of events that happened in November of 2016, he would be acquitted of the murder charge and only found guilty of the rape. He was sentenced to serve just five years behind bars because he was found to be criminally insane at the time of the murder.
It was a complicated case to try. The jury would later say that they believed Jos de G. had sexually assaulted Nicole, even though he claimed it was consensual, but they had difficulty convicting him of murder due to the DNA evidence. In that one single strand of sperm that was collected from Nicole’s body, there were three male DNA profiles found, so they could not say with certainty that only one person was involved with her murder.
Just a short while later, both the prosecution and the defence filed an appeal. This time, Jos de G.'s conviction was changed to both rape and manslaughter. For his crimes, he was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison.
What’s really incredible about Nicole van den Hurk’s case, is that it likely would have gone unsolved after all of these years if not for her brother Andy’s false confession. That was the one act that started the ball rolling again in her investigation. From there, once the body had been exhumed and the DNA evidence collected and tested, it was only a matter of time until the person responsible had to pay for taking her life.
Even after his sister’s murder case was solved and the perpetrator was behind bars, Andy continued to struggle in his own personal life. He was really active on social media, sharing personal stories from his life with those who had been following his sister’s case closely. Until August of 2021, when he posted a cryptic message on Facebook that read,
“I’m ready to say goodbye. The pills will do the rest.” | Source: Facebook
Sadly, he did take his own life after battling with so much tragedy and trauma for years. While he couldn’t save his sister from the monster she met on her way to work, he did something so courageous and stupid that not many people would be willing to do. For that, he is a hero.
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