Image by John Garrison
In the woods between Mierlo and Lierop in the Netherlands, a passerby found the body of Nicole van den Hurk, the victim of a brutal murder. More than 15 years later, her brother Andy would go to extraordinary lengths to find her killer.
De Bekentenis was published in two parts, both available now:PLAYLIST
Full details coming soon
Andy: When I’ve got something on my mind, I get into a tunnel vision. Everything else has to be pushed aside because that’s the goal where I want to go to, and I’ll get there. Nothing else matters. When I go into that tunnel vision, I don’t sleep. I hardly eat. It doesn’t matter who I’m hurting. It doesn’t matter the collateral damage that will be done. It doesn’t matter how it’s going to manifest itself on me. It’s just that goal, that thing. And that needs to be done. I don’t know if I can use this terminology, but if you stand on my cock, you’re going to know you stood on it. Yes, I can maneuver things and people into place where you’re thoroughly going to regret that you even came near standing on my cock. I’m not a vindictive person, but if the attack is directed directly at me, then you’ve got a problem.
Nick van der Kolk: You are listening to Love + Radio. I’m Nick van der Kolk.
Andy: Okay. My name is Andy van den Hurk. I’ve been born in the Netherlands in Eindhoven. My childhood… Not a very pleasant thing to talk about. I grew up with my mum and my stepdad, and I knew from a very young age that I wasn’t wanted. I was the house maid and that was it. I was cleaning the house. I was doing the dishes. I was hoovering floors. They made me very aware that I wasn’t wanted.
The genes on my father’s side are incredibly strong when it comes to looks. And I don’t know if you’ve seen a picture of my dad at a younger age, but we are a spitting image of each other. And my stepdad was a very jealous man. And I was a constant reminder that his wife had a marriage before they were married and that there was a child involved. Now still… I don’t know. I haven’t seen him for such a long time, if I would still be fearful of him. But during my childhood, yes, he used to beat me up, as a grown man sitting on me with his fists. I don’t want to go into the gory details, but he kept me imprisoned in my own room without television or radio for almost a month because I wetted the bed.
Nick van der Ko…: Was your father in the picture at all growing up? Your biological father?
Andy: It was hard not to have him in the picture because he was a successful recording artist. My mother used to change the channel when he was on there. But I did pick up that that was my real dad.
Ad: My name is Ad van den Hurk. I just retired and I’m 66 years old. I’m a singer-songwriter who started writing songs at a very early age, by playing in a band. It was mainly accessible music. I sang in English at first because we were young and futuristic. We didn’t want to follow the rules. We got discovered. Suddenly my songs were on the well-known program [inaudible 00:04:19] in the Netherlands, the most famous music program in the country with, and prepare yourself, 8.6, 8.7 million viewers. That’s a huge amount for such a small country.
He was a beautiful child, a sweet child, and quite intelligent for such a young age. And I lost him early too, even though I wanted to see him every day. Life is like that sometimes. You lose the things you don’t want to lose.
I was on the road without him. He was fair-haired. Beautiful boy to look at. He was funny, joking all the time, but I didn’t see much of him, because I think he was two, three, maybe four when he disappeared from my life. And then he became a continual thread through my life that wasn’t always very positive. He really had two personalities and can change from one moment to the next into a totally different person. The nice Andy is the sweetest man in the world. The biggest teddy bear, a darling model child. The other Andy could pop up anytime. There was a dangerous side to it.
Andy: At the age of 12, which is the legal age in the Netherlands where you can decide if you want to meet your biological parents, yes or no, I immediately went to my nan, my grandmother on my dad’s side, which I was visiting in secret quite often. And she rang my dad and my dad, within 20 minutes, he was there.
In hindsight, I’m not sure if that was the best decision that I’ve ever made. If I could turn back time, I probably would have opted out of meeting my dad. My dad took me to his house where he lived just outside in the suburbs of Eindhoven. The house, it was massive. It was full of clutter and stuff. In the garden, that’s where I found my two brothers, [inaudible 00:06:34] and Tommy. I saw my sister, Nicole. They all seemed really happy. All three of them were playing in the back garden. Very spontaneous. Loud laughter. The thing I vividly remember about that garden was they grew strawberries and I always thought that strawberries grew on trees, but they obviously didn’t. It seemed like a very warm household. And I was like, “This is also a part of me. I want to belong to that part.” So that night I decided to run away from my mum’s house to my dad’s house.
Nick van der Ko…: So that was also the first day that you met Nicole?
Andy: That was also the first day I met Nicole. Yes. Nicole looked like a six-year-old blonde, very happy girl. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that she is one of us. My dad’s features in her face are so prominent. She was dominant over my two brothers, but I always think that it’s a feeble thing anyway, to be dominant when there’s a lot of male testosterone going around in the household.
My dad does not really care about his children. So if you don’t stay in contact, he is not going to be the first one to pick up the phone. So after my dad divorced, I wasn’t part of the family anymore. So I bumped into Nicole every now and again in Eindhoven in town center or just on the road.
When my dad remarried with his fifth wife, I became part of that household again. I didn’t live there, but I used to regularly babysit my younger sister, Debbie, and my younger brother, Tommy. And Nicole was about 14, coming on 15. It’s hard to describe a relationship… Well, probably it’s not hard to describe for anybody who has brothers and sisters younger than you. When you’re 20, you think you own the world and somebody who’s 15 just does not really register on any scale because it’s so far beyond you. We did a lot of mime shows and I never let her be Madonna. I always wanted to be Madonna. God, I’m so gay.
I was madly in love with George Michael. I came to the conclusion when I was about 11, 12, “Okay. I’m not that interested in Madonna physically, but I absolutely love George Michael.” It was the Club Tropicana video in his white Speedos under the shower. And I also had a poster of that above my bed.
So you used to borrow or steal because you were not allowed to get into my room without my permission and took my George Michael LPs, and scratched him up to a standard where I couldn’t play them anymore. So I had to replace them. So after the seventh time… I remember this vividly. I went into her room. I made all her Barbies look like lesbians. Cut off all their hair.
Ad: On one hand, Andy says he had a good relationship with Nicole, but on the other hand, Andy was an eccentric boy who was also gay. It was difficult for a young girl to deal with. Nowadays it’s just as normal as anyone else. But in those days, 25 years ago, it was a bit more sensitive. Andy always tells me he had a very good relationship with her. I have the feeling that Nicole was sometimes scared of him. But from time to time they were also very close. So it’s difficult to gauge. Very difficult to gauge.
Andy: The last time I saw her was on the 3rd of October. This was 1995 and I was 20. We bumped into each other on the corner at the bakery where we both shopped. It was just a brother-sister conversation. Like, “How are you? How’s school? Any new clothes? Do you got a boyfriend?” She had a boyfriend. Instead of me saying, “Aren’t you a little bit too young for that?” I was thinking it. I just uttered the stupid sentence, “Well, use a condom.”
Nick van der Ko…: What did she look like the last day you saw her?
Andy: Beautiful. She looked absolutely stunning. She was growing up to become a very good-looking young woman. Bright, massive smile. Knowing she was gorgeous, with the arrogance that comes with it. Happy-go-lucky. She was absolutely stunning the last time I saw her.
Ad: Nicole was an independent girl. She had a part-time job stacking groceries and she did that very early in the morning. One day she left for work and her work called us at a quarter to seven in the morning. And that’s not like Nicole. She’s always on time. And I knew right then, “This is not good.”
Andy: I heard it on the radio that she was missing.
Newsreader: On the early morning, Friday, the 6th of October, 1995-
Andy: On the same day, it exploded.
Newsreader: [foreign language 00:00:12:57] 15-year-old Nicole van den Hurk went missing.
Nicole van den Hurk went missing.
Nicole van den Hurk left her job at a supermarket on the 6th of October at five in the morning, but never arrived.
Andy: My initial reaction was, “Okay, wise girl, you’ll run away as well. I hope you’ll get what you need.” Slightly worried that she was 15. I did not understand why she wouldn’t just let us know, “Okay, I’ve taken this decision and I’m alright.” So after a few days, the waiting and the uncertainty of what happened to her, the not knowing… That’s a plethora of feelings going through you, like being angry at her that she’s not in contact with you. “How dare you not to let us know where you are? What you’re doing?” The only thing you don’t think about is the unthinkable.
Ad: And hell. That’s horrible. That’s hell. You can’t understand what it’s like to know nothing about what’s going on. Remember, I was very close to people in the media at that time. So very early on the big channels, the media was saying, “Look around you. Ad van den Hurk’s daughter seems to have disappeared. People. Is she injured? Is she lying somewhere?” I had the opportunity to play the media at that time. And I did it extensively. Never got any thanks for it, but you have to put yourself in the shoes of a father whose child is missing. You don’t think about anything other than getting your child back. You don’t know. You are in a total ignorance.
Andy: I started drinking a lot to numb every feeling that you got, what’s going through you. It’s also a situation you can’t turn to your friends because they try to comfort you, but they don’t feel what you’re feeling. It was a lonely period, a very lonely period. I became a regular at the K Pub. I almost lived there. To have people around me not talking about her… But because of my dad’s media circus around it, everybody was talking about her. And it was almost as if they were talking behind my back. Not saying it in front of me, but saying it behind my back, just to safeguard me from unpleasant emotions that were going through my head.
For those seven weeks I was not in conflict with my father. The contact broke down a few years before that. There’s one fear in my upbringing and my youth that I haven’t addressed in this interview and that’s my fear of abandonment. Ringing my dad and him hanging up the telephone or ringing his doorbell and him slamming the door in front of me. That fear was bigger than my willingness to help find my sister, which absolutely tore me apart.
Ad: There were rumors that she was being held somewhere in a forest nearby in a wooden building. So we were searching really hard for that. I actively participated in the search because I wanted to be there. I wanted to do something. On the one hand, you are repressing yourself of what you are doing. On the other hand, you are doing something bizarre because you never know what you might find. The police said that they were no longer concentrating on finding Nicole in places where she could be. Now we’re going to look at scenarios where it’s possible that we will find her body.
Newsreader: Police and a dog specially trained for search in watery areas have again searched and failed to find a 15-year-old, Nicole van den Hurk, from Eindhoven.
Andy: I did not participate in any search action whatsoever. I was afraid of what my dad’s reaction would be if I all of a sudden turned up and offered my help. Later on, he told me that he would have appreciated that a lot. I also know that he lies about that because as long as the cameras were rolling, he was the doting father. When cameras were off, it was laughing with his friends and he did not come across to me like somebody who was grieving a lot. Which I could not understand. I had my six-year-old youngest sister crying herself to sleep at night, asking me where Nicole was.
And this might sound really weird. But eventually when she got found, it was almost like a relief. Nicole went missing on the 5th of October, 1995. And she got found on the 22nd of November the same year.
Ad: The police called and said, “We’re heading your way.” Okay. And then the head of the team came and said, “We’re almost certain we found Nicole.” Then we went to look the next day. And it was [inaudible 00:18:58] we were sure. And then your whole world collapses. Over and out. She’s gone. I will never see her again. It’s irrevocable. There are no more chances. They turn off the light in your heads, like they pull the cord and it goes dark in your head. What now? What now? Nicole will never come home again.
Andy: I was in my room in Eindhoven when I heard it. The telephone started ringing. Everything was a frenzy. Everything went mad. At some point, I just locked myself away. And you can’t describe it. You can’t. If a part of you is torn away from you and… Well, you just know it will never come back.
Ad: She was founded a remote corner of the woods by Mierlo and Lierop. It’s a small place some 35 kilometers near Eindhoven in the woods. There was a salesman who was going to eat a sandwich there. It was actually along the side of the road where some cars pass by. He had to pee and went into the woods and that man didn’t have the best day of his life.
Andy: I can’t describe what the man found. I don’t want to picture my sister like that. I want to picture my sister the last [inaudible 00:20:47] I saw her.
Newsreader: At least a thousand people attended Nicole van den Hurk’s funeral yesterday morning at [inaudible 00:21:05].
Andy: The scene of the funeral… It was a massive church. It was packed to the rim with people. It was live music, all kind of big acts with dad to support my dad, my family.
Newsreader: In the church Nicole’s casket stood in front of the altar in a veritable sea of flowers.
Ad: Every fellow Dutch musician, including the most famous ones, were in the church. And we came and saw thousands of people standing in the square. The whole of North Eindhoven was closed off by the police. And when we arrived, we were like, “Whoa, such respectful people standing outside, waiting for us to come in.” Nothing could have been further from the truth because there were already 800 people in the church. The funeral was so extraordinary and impressive that I only realized then how loved Nicole was and how the Netherlands had empathized with a teenager who in the end was found dead. It doesn’t bring her back, but it did give you… Yes, it gave you some strength in your heart to get through it.
Andy: I went to the funeral together with a friend of mine. I stood at the back, desperately wanting to be at the front with my family, but not knowing how they would react if I would actually walk up there and sit next to them. It was numb. It was weird. There were so many people… When the coffin… Which was closed, obviously, because she had been lying down there for seven weeks… When the coffin left the church, it’s about a mile, a mile and a half to the burial place. And the streets were just lined up with people.
Thinking backwards to that, I think it comforted me at the time. But in the moment there was just nothing else than sadness. Incredible sadness.
Ad: People can’t know. You need to go through this kind of hell first. I think you have to be a parent of a murdered child to know what hell a father or mother go through when a child is abused. It’s very simple. If you see an advertisement or an announcement in the [inaudible 00:23:55] on a Monday morning, because there it says, “18-year-old child missing,” you read it and think, “Well, it must be bad for those parents.” But if the same article is posted on a Monday morning, “Child of 15 missing,” and it’s your child, you can never look at that headline with any indifference again.
Andy: The police investigation was very intrusive because the first parts of where they’re going to investigate and going to look is inside the family, which I now know and accept that is just the way they do it.
Ad: I think it was two months after the funeral that they were at my door in the morning and arrested me saying that I was suspected of having cooperated with or initiated the murder of Nicole van den Hurk. My child.
And then I was really shocked. Like, “Are you serious? Pinch me. Is this real?” Later the police said I might have unknowingly had information about acquaintances, friends, who knows, who could have something to do with it. And that I wouldn’t have consciously concealed that at the time. I didn’t realize it would have such a terrible impact on my career. After her death I was not allowed to sing a note for two years anywhere. I had been one of the most sought-after artists in the Netherlands.
Andy: My father did not cooperate with the police anymore. And I followed suit because I thought there’s a time and a place. But you keep calling me in for the same questions. I never ever felt threatened. I never felt that they were suspecting me. So I always thought I was genuinely helping them with their investigation, but because the questions became so repetitive, at some point, I was like, “Just leave me be.” I came out of a nightclub and there were two police officers on horses. It was like they were standing there just for me. And I’m coming out of a nightclub. So I shouted at them, “You know what? I’ve done it. If you want me that badly, take me in now!” Which they ignored. But led up to my first arrest.
I was at a workplace. It was a factory. They made… I forgot what they made. The police came in and they asked for me. I genuinely thought, “Okay. They’ve got some news that they want to tell me,” because what else could be that important to get somebody out of his workplace?
And when I heard the words, “We’re arresting you in suspicion of murdering your sister, Nicole van den Hurk,” I laughed. I thought it was a joke. I even questioned the fact if they were policemen or not. The whole six days of that interrogation, I was completely flabbergasted. Because of the media circus and the media frenzy, I was locked in a cell without any radio, without anything to read, without magazines. I was not allowed to reach out to the outside world. It’s a blur. It’s six days [inaudible 00:27:42] cut out of my life and I will never get that back.
“Well, you’re free to go.” You were not free to go because you become the pinnacle of the media interest. The things they said and done in the tabloids is just… It’s crazy. How I sexually abused her, for example. How I was a psychopath. The weirdest things.
It was a nice day. I was in a very good mood. And I stepped off my bicycle in front of a red light, waiting. And there were three girls standing at the traffic lights as well. They looked at me, they looked at each other, and they looked at me again. I’ve never seen the devil myself, but that was pretty much what I got from how they looked at me. Like I was some form of such evil. That was really hard for me because I swear it hit home that I just knew that my life would never be the same again.
Nick van der Ko…: So how did you end up in England?
Andy: By plane. In April, 2003, I decided to come over to England. Felt at home immediately. 2003 to 2011 is totally uninteresting. I just did what everybody did. I had a job. I did my studies. I had a boyfriend long-term. Still had my depressions, but I was definitely on the up. I was going from strength to strength, from better jobs to better jobs. Bigger houses. Bigger cars. You name it. It’s totally materialistic. And it’s totally not interesting up until 2011.
Nick van der Ko…: How did you come up with the idea that you came up with for getting the police reengaged in the case?
Andy: There was something nagging and something nagging really, really badly. You watch all these TV series like NCIS… What is it? Something like that. Law and Order, things like that. Silent Witness. And I came to the conclusion that how horrible it might sound and how horrible it is, but if they were to take my sister out of her grave in 2011, that is 16 years after 1995, DNA techniques have evolved in that kind of matter that I was like, “What if…” And still that nagging voice in my head like, “The monster who’s done this might be in a pub drinking a pint.” And that kills you. It really does. I tried to convince the police to get her exhumed, but the case was closed. There were no officers on it. It was just a dead end story. So I was like, “There’s only one thing I can do now. There’s only one way to reopen this case.” And that is to falsely confess.
Andy van den Hurk
Ad van den Hurk
Nick van der Kolk, Host and Director
Noam Osband, Producer
Robin Amer, Producer
Jonathan Groubert, Producer
Nicki Stein, Producer
Steven Jackson, Producer
Phil Dmochowski, Producer
Julia DeWitt, Producer
Sound design by Steven Jackson and Phil Dmochowski.
Ad’s voiceover was provided by Richard den Haring.
Additional voiceover provided by:
Special thanks to Tom Curry.