14 April 2010 Court of Arnhem
Acquittal in case Lucy de Berk
Lucia is often presented as a modern day witch.
Only the broomstick is missing in the drawings of her – compare that with the photo here.
Lucia is very slight of build, that is genetic and has nothing to do with alcohol or drug use, as is sometimes suggested.
Lucia spent her secondary school years in Canada. In her 17th year she became involved in prostitution. Two years later she returned to the Netherlands.
She wanted to join nursing, and thereby a virtuous profession, but didn't have the right valid diploma, and – of course completely wrongly, but it happened in those days quite often – falsified a Canadian school diploma.
Lucia followed the nursing training course in the Leyenburg Hospital. During this period she was often ill from tb, for which she also had to be treated. After receiving her diploma Lucia worked (as was usual) via an agency in the Red Cross Hospital (RCH) and after that in the Penitentiary Hospital, the PEN, because there simply wasn't a formation place available, not due to problems, as would be suggested later.
In the PEN “she fitted in well”. Her husband however advised her to leave there, because he thought her too soft for that world and because her real dream was in pediatric care.
She successfully completed the pediatric supplementary training, “was” according to witnesses “good in the group, showed she was involved, was kind to the children and parents”. “She was always ready to help”, that is later used against her.
In the Juliana Children's Hospital (JCH) a previous colleague from the Leyenburg Hospital, with whom Lucia at that time worked happily, “warned them about her”. She is supposed to have done this because “strange things always happen when Lucia was on shift”.
Lucia was indeed assaulted once during a nightshift – by a person known to her but at the time she didn't want to say who it was because she was afraid. ‘They’ made of it that it was just an fabrication of hers to enable her to obtain morphine… In the Leyenburg Hospital there was also an incident with a morphine pump, which moreover often exhibited defects. It appears that Lucia wasn't even at work during that incident, is cleared of it, but it is an often repeated story in the indictment.
According to the Librarian's witness statement, the PEN's library had never stated that Lucia had stolen books. The date stamp wasn't correct because they had changed over to a different system. The old date on card system had in the mean time been replaced by an electronic lending system. But the Public Prosecutor (PP) relied on the date on the obsolete card. Lucia was probably somewhat ‘careless’, but her husband also took books out of the PEN library for her after she had left there, because he worked there.
The book with which the PP would demonstrate Lucia's dishonest nature is a Stephen King bestseller. There was a long waiting list for it. Other detective novels in Lucia's house which stood testimony to Lucia's lust for murder are also to be found in many Dutch bookcases. Moreover during the house search the police took away Satre's Concerning Existentialism, they left behind the many books on nature.
The FBI agent Brantley, brought in by the court, followed by Lampe and other writers, described in great detail the profile of a serial killer, to that end they even used the fact that her grandfather's house in Toronto burned down when Lucia was fourteen. She would be the arsonist – which fits in the profile of a serial killer. While 30 years ago, it was established that a simple short circuit was the cause and the whole thing was treated as such by the insurance company.
Stories quickly began circulating that Lucia had ‘the poisons’ in her home. She would have used them to commit the murders.
The ‘poison’ that was discovered during the house search was:
As a nurse you sometimes tuck things away quickly in your apron, there isn't always a medicine trolley nearby. Many nurses could, by accident, take medicines home with them.
The research team was not familiar with Tranxene – and saw this, fairly innocuous, substance to be a murder weapon. Sometimes during the case you see someone asking hopefully “could it have been the Tranxene?” (while they have no idea of it's effects) but nothing has ever been found in toxicological tests.
Chlorazapate (= Tranxene) is similar in name to Chloralhydrate – the medicine that one of the children was prescribed in high doses and of which he had a too high level in his blood. Chloralhydrate is a medicine of a completely different order to Chlorazepath, it is actually no longer used due to it's toxicity [compare Medline]. It is easy for something to go wrong in the use of Chloralhydrate, especially when used in combination with other medicines.
In the diary the word compulsion is used a couple of times, but the court claims that every time there's a ‘murder’ she had “given in to her compulsion”. According to Lucia it refers to the laying of Tarot cards. Strange perhaps for others, but maybe they suffer from a different superstition, that he or she is ashamed of. The Pieter Baan Centre sees no indications for a compulsion to murder, but is of the opinion that reading the Tarot cards fits in with Lucia's personality. Moreover Lucia became familiar with the word compulsion during her time in Canada, where it doesn't have such a strong meaning as it does in the Dutch language.
On the only day that the word compulsion corresponds with a death, a lady dies who was in the terminal phase of cancer which had spread all over. The woman had to have been killed by Lucia's hand to make the compulsion story believable.
The diary was never burned, as was suggested. The text carries on normally. Some pages have been torn out, the way pages are often torn out of diaries for use elsewhere. The story goes… that salient details about murders were all burned in the garden hearth.
The language in the diary is perhaps somewhat pathetic, it's a diary… it was never written for other readers, but to give an outlet to feelings and moods.
Lucia is supposed to have purposely chosen foreign children to murder, because she knew that the Islamic parents would refuse to allow post mortems to be carried out. But child A – the so called most important proof – was a Dutch child. And further, it's an accusation by a doctor that cannot be substantiated.
Lucia is described as kind and caring by foreign parents too. It is a particularly nasty and cruel accusation in these times. Untrue, but it contributes to the image making process.
Lucia was – and is – a very caring person. She took on many tasks, and people gladly let her take on the ‘more difficult’ tasks. She sometimes said that she thought the lives of seriously disabled children must be very difficult, for them and for the parents.
This has been turned in the image-forming to a harsh “she wished that they would just come to their end”, and a step further “she wanted to help such children out of their suffering” etc. In subjects like these the nuances are easily lost and well meant humanitarian pity can be interpreted as evil intent.
During the process a fellow inmate made a burdensome statement. This statement appeared during the trial to be completely untrue (as was often the case). But even now this false witness statement keeps echoing round. Although some people still insist that where there is smoke there is fire, despite the fact that there's no evidence to support it.
Lucia's prison reputation grew from this erroneous statement. Speculation was rife, and reinforced misconceptions while increasing the attachment of a stereoptypical serial killers' image to her name.
They are related to the pediatrician, who was closely involved in the research. There was never a problem with family ties, Lucia was unknown to them. The family itself has no interest in this case.
Because of the aforementioned family connection more interest for the case was generated. Because of the information, as it is possible to read in the judgment and the sentence, and the discussions in the media about the presentation of evidence, doubts arose about whether there had been a fair trial.
They tried initially to get the PPS's attention for the case outside the media. When that proved impossible they sought – contre cœur – discreet contact with the media.