The trial for seven teenagers and an adult charged with manslaughter after an attack on a volunteer soccer linesman at a youth match in the Netherlands began yesterday.
The hearing in Lelystad is mostly closed to the media due to the young age of most of the suspects. It began with testimony from four different forensic experts debating the exact cause of Richard Nieuwenhuizen’s death.
Nieuwenhuizen, 41, died in December after he was allegedly kicked several times in the head by enraged youth players shortly after the final whistle at an amateur game.
Nieuwenhuizen died shortly afterwards in hospital, leading to much soul-searching in the soccer-mad Netherlands, while the teenaged boys and one of their fathers were charged with manslaughter.
The Netherlands’ National Forensics Institute concluded he was killed as a result of injuries sustained during the attack. Each of the defendants has his own lawyer. They are expected to argue that Nieuwenhuizen had an underlying condition that contributed to his death or caused it.
Gerard Spong, one of the Netherlands’ most prominent criminal defense attorneys, summoned British forensics expert Christopher Milroy to testify that Nieuwenhuizen may have suffered from a rare genetic condition that weakened his aorta.
“An independent pathologist is to testify that his investigation found that the linesman may have died of a number of causes including a spontaneous tear in his carotid artery,” defense lawyer Sydney Smeets told reporters.
The left and right carotid arteries deliver blood to the brain through the sides of the neck.
“Therefore, what we’re saying is that there is no reason to believe that Richard Nieuwenhuizen died as a result of kicks he may have received, but could have died of many other causes,” Smeets said ahead of the trial.
The seven youths and one man, identified only as El-Hasan D, 51, say they are innocent of wrongdoing. Only one of them has acknowledged having touched Nieuwenhuizen, saying that he may have kicked at his shoulder
The youths and El-Hasan are charged with manslaughter, public violence and brutality. Six of the youths, aged between 16 and 17 at the time, as well as El-Hasan, have been held in custody pending the hearing while the seventh teenager, aged 15, was freed, but faces similar charges.
All eight are connected to, or are members of, the Nieuw Sloten football club, which played against Nieuwenhuizen’s Buitenboys Club in Almere, east of Amsterdam, when the attack occurred.
Nieuwenhuizen officiated as a linesman in the under-17 match, in which his own son also played, and was set upon immediately after by members of the Nieuw Sloten club. He was allegedly kicked several times in the head, but got up and went home. He became ill a few hours later and died the following day in hospital with his family at his side.
Should the teenage suspects be found guilty, they face one to two years in a juvenile facility.