A Dutch court yesterday jailed six teenage boys and a father for up to six years for beating to death an amateur soccer assistant referee last year.
“The seven suspects are guilty of beating the linesman’s head and upper body,” said judge Anja van Holten, finding an eighth suspect innocent of the killing of Richard Nieuwenhuizen, 41.
Nieuwenhuizen’s death after being kicked by enraged youth players after officiating in a match in which one of his sons was playing sent shock waves through the soccer-mad Netherlands.
He died in hospital shortly after the match.
The seven young suspects, aged 15 to 17 at the time, and the 51-year-old adult were charged with manslaughter, public violence and brutality.
“The court decides that none of the suspects had the intention of killing the linesman,” the judge said.
The only adult, Hasan D, was jailed for six years, while five of the teenagers were sent to youth detention units for the maximum of two years, six months suspended.
A sixth convict, aged 15, was sent to a youth detention unit for a year with two months suspended.
Nieuwenhuizen’s widow and three sons spoke to journalists outside the court.
“We’re happy with the high sentences, because the worst thing for me is that they never admitted what they did,” widow Xandra Nieuwenhuizen said, arm in arm with her sons. “This verdict gives us some kind of closure.”
The last suspect, also 15, was acquitted of the killing, but ordered detained for 30 days, 17 of them suspended, because “he only hit the opposing side’s goalkeeper,” the ruling said.
“The conclusion is that the violence the suspects committed is the reason for Nieuwenhuizen’s death,” the judge said after an expert had said the death could be blamed on a genetic anomaly.
Prosecution spokeswoman Susanne Terporten said she was “fairly satisfied” with the sentences.
“There are not extenuating circumstances in this case, notably because the suspects never confessed, despite the evidence. The fact that they never confessed is hard for the family, because it means that they will never know exactly what happened,” she said.
“It looked like they were kicking a ball,” the judge quoted a witness as saying as she read out the verdict.
“This incident has shocked the footballing world, beyond our borders,” she said.
Nieuwenhuizen’s death led to much soul-searching in the Netherlands, where 1.2 million people out of a population of 16.5 million are members of national soccer federation the KNVB.