Outside the court, there are black and white balloons and a banner with rustSoftArno on it. Inside the courtroom is a police helmet on a writing table with behind it a photo of Arno de Korte, the Rotterdam motorcycle police officer who died on 7 July 2021 after a collision with a truck driven by a trucker from Melissant (Goeree-Overflakkee).
The entourage of the case, Monday and Tuesday in the Rotterdam court, about the fatal accident, differed from that in other cases. Not only the banner and helmet testified to this. Police officers not only performed the usual security duties in the room, but were also present at the hearing, out of solidarity with their deceased colleague.
Trucker M. (47) is suspected by the Public Prosecution Service of having hit the motorcycle police officer on purpose, out of “rancor” against the police. The Public Prosecution Service charges M. with murder, so deliberately killing De Korte, and also driving on after the collision. The suspect denied the accusation, again this Monday. He has always maintained that he had not noticed the motorcycle cop in time, because he suddenly drove in front of him and stopped.
The Public Prosecution Service and the defense hit each other at the hearing on Monday with camera images and an animation. Justice wanted to create an image that the truck had long been followed by the motorcycle cop, who then drove a good distance in front of him to give a trailing sign. The animation had to support that image.
M.’s lawyer contrasted that with other camera images from other angles. They were supposed to show that the motorcycle cop had only shifted from the left lane to the right at a late stage, a short distance in front of the truck. After the motorcycle police officer braked hard at the traffic light to turn right, he was run over by the startled trucker.
Halfway through the afternoon, expert witness Aart Spek of the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) spoke. His conclusions – also based on camera images – deviated in some respects from the presentation of cases by the judiciary and the police. According to Spek, the distance between the rear of the police motorcycle and the front of the truck was much shorter than the 28 meters calculated by the traffic police. The truck followed the motorcycle cop at 7.5 meters towards the traffic light, according to expert Spek. The truck was traveling 44 kilometers per hour at the time.
To the consternation of the relatives present, Spek washed the images of the fatal collision several times back and forth on the screens in the hall. Suspicious M. said on Monday that he could not remember anything about the entire incident, not even that he later drove past the scene of the accident. His memory only became active when he was arrested by the police.
A little over a year ago, the case surrounding the death of motorcycle police officer Arno caused a lot of stir, both within and outside the Rotterdam police force. Hundreds of motorcycles and police cars drove through the city on July 16 last year as a tribute. The then minister Ferd Grapperhaus (Justice and Security, CDA) and mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb were also there.
It soon became apparent that the trucker involved had been involved in a series of, partly serious, traffic incidents in the previous years. In 2015, he also hit a motorcycle cop who wanted him to stop because of possible overload. The officer was seriously injured and had lost an arm.
In 2020, M. killed a 79-year-old cyclist crossing a provincial road. When the interrogation in the courtroom came to this, M. became emotional; he said that the accident had caused him to dislike his job a lot (“I hated it”) and to have looked in vain for another job (“But I was too old”).
According to fellow officers from De Korte, after these incidents, the trucker should never have been able to get his driver’s license back, which had been confiscated in 2020. Further investigation led by former traffic prosecutor Koos Spee showed that previous convictions and incidents with M. were never fully examined in order to estimate the risks of M’s road use.
Several acquaintances of M. have indicated to Justice that they are concerned about the psychological condition of the trucker. According to them, he was particularly outraged about the judicial settlement of the earlier accident with a motorcycle cop in 2015. Until the Supreme Court, M. had tried – in vain – to reopen the case, because an exculpatory witness statement had been received. M. was given a 240-hour community service order, a two-month suspended prison sentence and a suspended driving license for eighteen months for that collision.
Villagers also declared to . last year NRC that M. was the victim of bullying by a colleague of the seriously injured motorcycle police officer, who had found the sentence far too low. The colleague has a motorcycle school on Goeree, not far from Melissant where M. lives. According to local residents, M. felt “hunted by the police”.
Also read: Villagers paint a very different picture than the police of the trucker who killed a cop
An acquaintance of M. stated to Justice that the trucker was obsessed with police officers. “When he saw a flashing blue light, he already started cooking.” M. personally denied having anything against agents, but against the judicial system. He previously called this “corrupt”, and accused him of “Stasi practices”, reproaches that he repeated at the hearing.
The court hearing will continue on Tuesday, with new observations from NFI expert Aart Spek. The next of kin will also have their say and the Public Prosecution Service may formulate the sentence.