Dutch police have launched the country's biggest ever DNA search so that they can find a relative of the killer, whose DNA would closely resemble him.
The men got a personal invitation in February to voluntarily give DNA samples. Officials say this is the largest DNA investigation in search of family ties ever carried out in the Netherlands so far.
Nicky Verstappen had disappeared during the night of August 9, 1998, while at summer camp at the Brunssumerheide nature reserve, near the German border. His body was found the next evening, close to the campsite.
Trying to find traces
Dutch police said that the men, aged between 18 to 75, were not suspects in the murder, but could make a major contribution to finally provide a lead on what happened to Nicky in August 1998.
They said the large-scale DNA research was a final attempt to answer the question of who left traces on Nicky's clothes.
The police were searching to see if the DNA donor had any family ties to the person who left traces in the place where Nicky was found. The chosen men are all from Heibloem, where Nicky lived, and the villages surrounding the nature reserve.
Dutch officials have been thinking for a long time that the murderer came from the area due to the location where the body was found. However, they did not initially get results and the case went dead. Then a cold-case team began revisiting the investigation five years ago. They were hoping that contemporary technologies could help solve the crime.
With new techniques, scientists were able to identify the DNA found on Verstappen’s body and clothes. Officials hope that they can find new leads by identifying a relative of the killer by testing men between the ages of 18 and 75 years who live near the Brunssummerheide area.
Analysis of the DNA samples is estimated to take between six to 12 months. If any matches are found, then further research will be carried out. Several collection points have been set up and will remain open for three weeks.
Dutch police have also been carrying out, since October last year, a voluntary DNA drive among about 1,500 men who were regular visitors to the camp. So far this search has not provided any clues. The officials, however, were able to find the culprits for another case in December.
This time the collection of 130 DNA samples led to the arrest of a suspect for the murder and rape of a young woman in 1992 in Zaandam, which is close to Amsterdam.
DNA testing in big amounts requires intensive resources and therefore is not a usual approach to solve a crime even though important developments have been made in forensic genetics recently.
DNA testing can also be more successful if the police can concentrate on smaller groups. After a judge approved the screening in the Netherlands, the mass DNA testing began last week and it will probably continue through March. More than one thousand men have shown up one day to have their samples taken.