There is a life before and after that high-profile fire. It was in the summer of 2019 that flames partly reduced the semi-detached house, in the middle of an average neighborhood on the edge of the village.
It seemed like a fine summer day like so many others. In the afternoon, new street work was laid around the house. And as it so often happens in the countryside: everyone and everything rolled up their sleeves and afterwards we had a nice meal together.
Cezary wanted to stay home. After an exciting evening before, he wanted to take it easy that Saturday evening. Although he was persuaded by an uncle and aunt, who live nearby and with whom he had a special bond, to stop by that evening. His parents were already there.
It was a special evening for youngest son Sven: he went out for the first time with his friends outside Nieuwleusen. By bus to Zaal Dijk in Lemele. And as always, afterwards it is again a pleasant and sweet idea in the Van der Veen house. A beer together in the garage, the only place where smoking is allowed in the house.
Sven has enjoyed his night out and wants to fry with his buddies. “Normally no problem, but in the meantime it was about three o’clock,” says father Freddie. “Of course he didn’t like it, but after we talked about it for a while, he accepted it.” At that moment Cézary is already lying on one ear in his attic room.
A few hours later, parents Freddie and Henriët are startled by noise. Neighbors have seen smoke rising from the attic and managed to enter the house through the garage door (‘we forgot to lock it’). Calling at the bottom of the stairs, they sound the alarm. “At first I couldn’t even detect anything,” says Freddie with a lump in his throat. “But when I wanted to go to the attic, I couldn’t even do that anymore. It was black with smoke and the heat was unbearable.”
De Nieuwleusenaar, an international truck driver in daily life, immediately drums his wife out of bed. Emotional: “I tried a second time to go up, but I just couldn’t do it.”
Both flee outside and have to passively watch as the fire brigade does its job. Assuming that both their sons have stayed behind in the attic, where the flames are now spreading. “Cezary’s body was soon found. We were convinced that Sven had not survived either.”
In the video below, Freddie and Henriët look back on that evening, their lost son Cézary and the criminal investigation against their other son, Sven:
For almost three hours the parents are under the assumption that both their sons have died. In the meantime, firefighters turn the house upside down. Looking for Sven. But neither language nor sign.
Freddie: “They could not find any trace of him and therefore suspected that he was no longer at home. However, it was clear to us: Sven would never leave the house without warning us. He had therefore still to be inside and had not survived. It took a few hours, but it felt like an eternity. It was absolute hell.”
But a few hours later Sven reports to the police tapes. Totally dazed, reeking of smoke and covered in soot. “We were of course very relieved, but were not even allowed to see Sven. Only hours later were we able to embrace him at the police station in Zwolle. We told him there that Cézary had not survived the fire. You can see how enormously emotional it came to be.”
Later comes the new big setback. “We heard that the judiciary suspected Sven that he had started the fire. At that time it was still completely unclear what they based that on.”
According to the parents, the police and the judiciary did not come to that conclusion after forensic investigation, but apparently they found Sven’s behavior so suspicious that they assumed that there must have been intent. “While that boy was injured in the fire, he was not even medically treated but immediately taken to the police station.”
His parents: “The stay in the detention complex in Borne was a traumatic experience for him. In the meantime we were kept away from him. Later he was transferred to the detention house in Veenhuizen. Fortunately, they had more understanding of his situation. They even said that he didn’t belong behind bars at all. There they were very concerned about him because of his psychological condition. They thought that he only belonged in one place: with his parents.”
Justice thought otherwise. A large investigative team was assigned to the case. Mother Henriët: “Then we, as parents, were interrogated for a whole day, while we were still in complete shock at the time. That was absolutely traumatic. Afterwards we heard that we were overheard when Sven’s first lawyer was talking to us. And when we temporarily lived in a summer house, listening devices were installed in our car. Things that we could all read back in the file later. To our great astonishment.”
Their appeal lawyer Mariska Pekkeriet-Bischop confirms this: “Conversations between lawyers and their clients are normally confidential, but the crucial difference is of course that the parents in this case were not clients of this lawyer. I find extensively how justice has worked here.”
To this day, the parents are particularly indignant about the judicial action just before the funeral. “The three of us had just said goodbye to Cézary. The lid would go on the coffin for the funeral service, but we had still offered people the opportunity to say goodbye to him personally. After we went to the auditorium to walked out and sat in the car, there was a bang on the window. ‘We’re taking your son with us,’ we were told. ‘Which son?’ we thought. But it turned out to be Cezary.”
“We have never been told the reason, but we suspect that the judiciary wanted to further investigate the cause of death. Whether there might have been murder. While it had already been established that Cézary had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. We still find that action by the judiciary. always excessive and the way it happened totally inappropriate.”
The Public Prosecution Service eventually took Sven to court. He was suspected of being involved in the fire. Main arguments: a fire had started in three places in the house, while Sven was missing for some time and only reported to the police tapes a few hours after the fire. In addition, he looked confused, was smeared and reeked of smoke. He also stated that he can no longer remember much, according to the judiciary.
According to the parents, these three fires require some nuance. “The fire started in Sven’s bedroom. The two other fires were a side table in the living room and a bowl of chocolates in the kitchen. It is not surprising that fires started in more places, since the sparks fell down from the attic. “
“Probably this fire spread through the house when the front door was opened. That also matches the burn marks from the shoes in the hall. And then there were a total of seventeen firefighters in our house during the fire, who could have started the fire. moved.”
Believe in innocence
After Sven is acquitted in the first instance, the judiciary appeals to the dismay of the parents. But the Court of Appeal is also clear in its verdict: acquittal. A technical cause simply cannot be ruled out, according to the Court.
The parents unconditionally believed in Sven’s innocence from the start. They have stood pontifically behind him all this time. Henriët: “And not only us. Everyone who knows him knows that Sven is not capable of such a thing. That is also the reason why the community here in Nieuwleusen has embraced him completely again. Including Cézary’s friends. Everyone those who know him know: Sven could never have done this.”
The boy himself stated during the interrogations that he had woken up to a bang, saw fires everywhere and can’t remember anything from that moment on. Psychologists who examined him afterwards reported that they did not have the impression that the boy was faking the amnesia or that he was hiding things.
At the same time as the acquittal, the court ruled that the most pressing question remained unanswered: how did the fire start? The court calls that painful. Not only for the parents, but also for Sven himself.
The parents believe it to be a technical cause: they suspect a short circuit in one of the devices in Sven’s bedroom. “There was the necessary equipment. His mobile, but also two alarm clocks. Two, because he sometimes slept right through it.”
Father Freddie: “We suspect that after a fire broke out in his bedroom, Sven instinctively fled outside and was knocked out. That he was injured somewhere. Sven has also constantly tried to remember what happened But he simply doesn’t remember.”
“Sven has had a very hard time with it. And still. He has lost his older brother. As a tribute to Cézary, he had a beautiful tattoo done: containing all kinds of Germanic characters. The characters written in the number six, mean brother. The individual characters are Cézary’s name. Cézary also often wrote his name as ‘6arie’, hence.”
‘Long way to go’
“Sven has become a different person after the fire. Very reserved. Has fled during his studies and internship. Fortunately, that is going well for him. It is great that he is gradually succeeding in working on his future again. Although at the same time he has still a long way to go.”
That goes for the whole family. They see the acquittal by the court as a new starting signal. And very important: a form of rehabilitation for Sven. “Our lives will never be quite the same as before. We’ve been through too much for that.”
“For hours we lived under the assumption that we had lost both our sons in the fire. Then the bizarre situation occurred where we were still mourning the loss of our one son, while our other son was suspected of having put his hand in it. And then the whole legal aftermath… With everything that came with it: the interrogations, the lawsuits. Now that there is finally an acquittal, we can focus on our future.”
In that regard, they are particularly pleased with the attitude of Univé, the insurer. “Before Christmas 2019, we were already told that everything would be reimbursed: both the damage and the costs of rebuilding. Those people took a lot of practical work off our hands.”
Look to the future
Now on the brink of 2022, the focus is mainly on the forward. “We are now trying to look to the future as much as possible. Although that still involves trial and error. But one day, we hope to pick up our old life as best as possible. And Cézary will always be part of that.”
Later today on this website an extensive portrait of Cézary.
The Public Prosecution Service has invited the parents for an interview. That will take place shortly. According to a spokeswoman, during the conversation it will be explained how advancing insights in the research have influenced the choices made, including with regard to the release of the body. “The state of affairs surrounding the arrest and treatment of Sven will also be discussed. A number of important nuances apply to the criticism expressed in the story, as far as the Public Prosecution Service is concerned. At as many moments as possible we have tried to take into account the special circumstances. circumstances, in which the grief of the parents was taken into account by everyone involved. Unfortunately, this does not alter the fact that there was a suspicion of a very serious offense, in which the court carefully reviewed the assessments of the Public Prosecution Service as befits a pre-trial detention.”