Willem van Eijk (born in Korteraar, 13
August 1941) is a convicted Dutch serial killer known as "Het Beest
van Harkstede" (The Beast from Harkstede). He was twice convicted
for a total of five murders.
Willem van Eijk was born in 1941 in the small
village of Korteraar, South Holland. During his time on an elementary
school in Ter Aar he was an outcast and referred to as "Gekke
Willempie" (Crazy little William), something he later used to
justify his actions. During this time of extreme bullying, van Eijk
started to collect morbid items, like dead bugs and frogs. Soon he was
well known inside the village for his cruelty towards animals,
especially dogs, cats and ducks. At high school he was still a loner,
and van Eijk ended up with petty crime. During this time he started to
dream about raping and killing women.
Cora Mantel - In 1971 he picked up the
15-year-old Cora Mantel from Uithoorn. She had missed her bus ride
home after meeting with her boyfriend in Amsterdam, and van Eijk
found her hitchhiking along the road. He raped her and strangled her
with her own shawl, before dumping her body in a ditch near
Uithoorn. Her body was found on 22 June 1971. Because on the morning
of the murder she was to start her new job, at a jewelry store in
Aalsmeer, the jeweler was, for a short period of time, a suspect.
Aaltje van der Plaat - On 19 August 1974
the lifeless body of Aaltje van der Plaat was found near a road
inside a cornfield. She had died from multiple stab wounds, her
belly was ripped open and her left nipple was cut off. At the end of
the road lived Willem van Eijk in a houseboat named De Vrijheid
(The Freedom). Several witnesses had seen van Eijk drive on his
moped, near the area where the body was found, on the evening of the
murder. The police arrested van Eijk and straight off he confessed
to the murders of Cora and Aaltje.
In 1975 van Eijk got sentenced to 18 years imprisonment and TBS. The
details of the murders, that were revealed during the trial, were so
horrifying that several judiciary guards had to throw up. Psychiatric
reports explained that van Eijk has severe childhood traumas because
of bullying and rejection by women. During his therapy in the Van
Mesdagkliniek psychiatrists presumed his deviant behavior was the
result of brain damage sustained during his birth. In 1980, when he
was still in the clinic, he married his pen-friend Adri. In 1990 he
was released and together they moved into a house in Harkstede.
Psychiatrists believed that his relationship with Adri would keep him
on the straight path; however, another rejection of a woman could
result in repeating of murder. The relationship turned out to be a
downward spiral for van Eijk.
Between his release and his second arrest there
were eight prostitutes, and several other young women murdered near
the area where van Eijk lived. In 1997 van Eijk was a suspect for the
murder of Anne de Ruyter de Wildt, and in 2000 for the murder on
Marianne Vaatstra; however, DNA tests proved his innocence in these
cases. Several years later both murderers of these two women were
Sasja Schenker - On 17 July 2001 the
lifeless naked body of the 34-year-old prostitute Sasja Schenker was
found in the Slochterdiep near Harkstede. Her clothes were found
several months later near van Eijk's house. They were found to be
thrown in the canal, in a plastic bag, weighted with stones.
Because the clothes of Sasja were found near van
Eijk's house, police soon suspected he was responsible. On 12 November
2001 police arrested van Eijk. He soon confessed to the murders of
Michelle Fatol, Annelies Reinders and Sasja Schenker. Police also
suspected him of the murders of Shirley Hereijgers, Antoinnette Bont
and Jolanda Meijer; however, van Eijk did not confess to those, and
there was no further evidence he was involved. With excavators the
ground around his house was excavated; however, there were no bodies
found. As of 2013, Jolanda Meijer is still missing.
Between 1993 and 2001 several other bodies were
found. In 1995 the torso of 24-year-old prostitute Antoinette Bont was
found in the Winschoterdiep. Other body parts were later found in a
sports bag. Two years later, in 1997, the body of 19-year-old
prostitute Shirley Hereijgers was found. Around the same time also
friend and colleague Jolanda Meijer (35) disappeared. Several other
men were suspected these killings, but all turned out to be innocent.
Willem van Eijk never confessed to killing these women. However, it is
publicly believed he is responsible.
Trial and sentence
At the start of the trial van Eijk was represented
by lawyer Willem Anker, much to the astonishment of the relatives of
Shirley Hereijgers, since Willem Anker also represented them. When van
Eijk officially was suspected in murdering Shirley, Willem Anker
dropped his client. After several new lawyers, van Eijk got sentenced,
on 7 November 2002 to life imprisonment for the murder of the last
three victims. Van Eijk appealed, but the Supreme Court of the
Netherlands agreed with the sentence of the court. Van Eijk several
times requested clemency, that in the Netherlands can only be given by
the head of state, but all of the requests were denied.