In 1964, a baby boy was taken from a hospital at just one day old. His mother and father were left behind with no clue or explanation and had to return home without their newborn child. Ten years later, a young boy discovered hidden boxes in his parents' basement full of newspaper clippings about the missing child. He would spend the rest of his life trying to put the pieces together. Every question that was answered promoted another question as the mystery unfolded. Read the incredible story of Paul Joseph Fronczak and the huge impact it had on the lives of everyone around him.
A Perplexing Discovery
“200 Search for Missing Baby,” read the article headline that ten-year-old Paul Fronczak found when searching in his parents’ basement crawl space for his Christmas present. It was one piece of paper in three boxes full of letters and newspaper clippings that the young boy had stumbled across. “Mother Asks Kidnapper to Return Baby,” read another. The accompanying pictures were of his parents. They looked younger but were instantly recognizable. Then he read the baby’s name.
The boxes, which also contained a mound of sympathy cards, contained repeated information that a baby named Paul Joseph Fronczak had been abducted and that a huge campaign had been launched to recover the infant. The ten-year-old boy who was searching through the papers was alarmed. His name was Paul Joseph Fronczak, but he was here, right now, in the house of the people in the photographs. How could this be?
A Mother’s Nightmare
On April 26, 1964, a baby boy was born in Chicago’s Michael Reese Hospital. The mother was Dora Fronczak and she spent the day alternating between nursing her beautiful newborn son and resting from the birth whenever he was taken to the nursery to sleep. After that bleary first night, when the morning shift began, a nurse came into Dora’s room and collected the baby to take him to a doctor for an examination.
The baby never reached a doctor, nor was he returned to his mother. It wasn’t long before hospital staff realized that something had gone wrong, but it wasn’t until the afternoon that they notified Dora Fronczak and the authorities. At three o’clock that afternoon, Chester Fronczak, the baby’s father, received a call at his workplace.
The City Searched
The ten-year-old Paul Fronczak was fascinated by what he was reading and ran excitedly to show his mother and ask her for an explanation. She chastised him at first for crawling around the house looking for his Christmas presents - it was impatient, rude, and, judging by where he’d been, potentially dangerous. Eventually, though, Dora Fronczak calmed down and confessed to her son that he had been kidnapped. She didn’t want to go into it any further though.
“We found you, we love you, and that’s all you need to know,” she told Paul, at odds with the dramatic happenings he would read about in the papers. Once Chester and Dora had been informed their infant son was missing, chaos broke loose. Chicago’s largest-ever manhunt was launched. 175,000 postal workers, 200 police officers, and the FBI were mobilized and managed to search over 600 houses that day.
No Sign at All
Despite the scale of the search, they found nothing. No baby, no evidence, no suspects, no leads of any kind. The worried parents stayed at the hospital for a full week, waiting, hoping, but there was no news. Eventually, they returned home, where they were hounded by the press, who were gripped by the tale of a missing newborn child. Nobody had any answers and the case stalled.
Ten-year-old Paul had gotten nowhere either. His mother’s reaction had stifled his own investigation. No matter how naturally curious he was, he couldn’t ask any more questions. The only information he could get was by sneaking back to the boxes whenever his parents were out. He’d rifle through the papers in desperate search of some answers. The first part of the mystery involved a simple question. If he went missing without a trace, how was he back living with his parents now?
A Child Was Found
In July 1965, an abandoned toddler was found in Newark, New Jersey. An unattended baby carriage had been discovered in a busy mall where shoppers had been walking by oblivious. On closer inspection, a boy of around two years old was alone in the cart. With no way to track his parents, the child was put in the care of the Eckert family, who would foster him while investigations were completed.
The Eckerts loved their unexpected child and, not having anything to call him, gave him the name Scott McKinley, baptizing him as such. With no sign of his biological family being found, they began making plans to adopt. It was at this point that a detective in New Jersey flagged a possible origin for an unidentified child and raised the events of 1964 in Chicago. The FBI took the lead and, in March 1996, wrote to Dora and Chester Fronczak.
It’s All in the Ears
There were some huge problems with investigating this claim, not least the issue of how the FBI could confirm the identity of a randomly discovered child with next to no information to go on. Paul Fronczak was taken at less than one day old, before the hospital had a chance to take fingerprints, footprints, or even record his blood type. One photograph had been taken: one photograph which must be compared to a child almost two years older.
All there was to work with was the general acceptance that the baby in the photograph, Paul Fronczak, had similarly shaped ears to the abandoned toddler, Scott McKinley. Of course, none of this was going to deter the elite investigative outfit that was the FBI from finding the answer. They tested over 10,000 boys, the child found in New Jersey was the only one they couldn’t rule out.
Meeting a Child That Might, or Might Not, Be Theirs
For three months Dora and Chester Fronczak were put through a series of psychological tests before they were allowed to meet the child who was suspected to be their own. The young boy was given an assessment of his own as authorities sought to uncover the true identity of the infant and the suitability of the couple to care for them. There was also the matter of approval for adoption.
Whether or not the child was actually the same who had been removed from the Chicago hospital two years before, he was now officially registered as Scott McKinley. So, if he was to be handed to the Fronczak's, they would need to adopt him. Before all that could happen though, there needed to be a meeting. That happened when an FBI agent walked the toddler in question into a room where his possible parents were waiting.
Dora Fronczak Said Yes, But…
Dora Fronczak felt a huge amount of pressure, and she didn’t feel like she had any choice. After the investigation, the press, the psychiatric testing, the disruption to the lives of the Eckert family, the work by the FBI, and the eyes of the world watching the meeting, Dora felt the immense weight of responsibility. Not least, she felt a responsibility to the young child, whoever he was.
If she said this child wasn’t hers, everything went back to zero and Scott McKinley was dropped into the limbo of uncertainty. If she said yes, whether he was the boy she’d named Paul Fronczak or not, he would gain a family, they would gain a child, and the whole awful thing would be over. Dora Fronczak did what she thought was right; she said that the boy in front of them was her son.
Hair Was a Problem
After that day, the Fronczaks took their baby home to Chicago and officially adopted him into the family, renaming him Paul Fronczak and doing their best to get on with their lives. Paul grew up with loving and caring parents who did all they could to support his life and his choices, but, as you can imagine, they were a little overprotective. In Paul’s teenage years, there was a common parent-child clash which triggered a memorable response from Dora.
Paul enjoyed rock music and grew his hair long. This wasn’t popular with either his strict Catholic school or his conservative parents, and it led to some rows that are familiar from many of our households. In one, a particularly brutal comment was sparked from Dora. “I wish they’d never found you,” she yelled. Paul feels those words to this day. “I feel it in my soul,” he says.
Paul Didn’t Settle
Paul’s love of rock music developed further and, after high school, he moved to Arizona to become the bass player in a band. It didn’t last, but it set a precedent for how he would approach life. “I moved probably at least 50 times in my life, and I’ve had well over 200 jobs,” he said much later. After five years in Arizona, he returned to Chicago, but he didn’t stay for long.
He spent time working in various places as an actor and a model, sometimes he was a salesman, and he even spent a period in the army. Eventually, he settled in Las Vegas. Along the way, he married twice, the second time to a teacher named Michelle. One thing remained consistent throughout Paul’s life though. “No matter where I go or what I do, I’ve always had those paper clippings with me,” he said.
Doubt Had Always Been There
Paul had spent his entire life, aside from those first two years, as the son of Chester and Dora Fronczak. For all that time, the family, including Paul’s younger brother Dave, carried on as if that was simply the way things were - even if Paul did feel his parents were always a little closer to his brother. There was never any certainty though, and from that day of discovery when he was ten, Paul never let the doubt go.
The odds just seemed so narrow. Could Dora and Chester’s baby really have simply turned up 800 miles away from where he went missing, in a county of 200 million people? “It just seemed so unfathomable,” he said himself. When Paul and his second wife, Michelle, became pregnant with their first daughter, questions about Paul’s medical history were asked and there were answers he didn’t have.
He Didn’t Look the Part
Paul didn’t feel he looked like the rest of his family, not the way his younger brother did. “Dave looked exactly like my dad,” Paul said. “Mannerisms, facial expressions, the body-build, everything.” Paul, on the other hand, saw no resemblance to either his mother or father. There were differences in their personalities, too; the family members, in general, were quiet and introverted, while Paul was outgoing and rebellious.
Of course, being different from your parents is not usually proof that you are not related, especially during the teenage and young-adult years, but it was another thing to fuel the doubt which continued to nag at Paul. Once DNA testing became possible in the mid-80s, Paul was keen to perform the experiment. He didn’t though, out of love and respect for his family. “I had always found a reason not to do it,” he admitted. “I didn’t want to hurt them.”
Paul Sprang the Tests at the Last Minute
In 2012, Dora and Chester flew from Chicago to see Paul. It had been just like any other parental visit, with no discussion of the question Paul had stewed over his entire life - at least, not until the last hour. Earlier that year, Paul had found some over-the-counter self-swab DNA testing kits. He’d struggled for the courage to bring them up and finally did it just an hour before his parent’s flight home.
“Have you ever wondered if I’m your real son?” he blurted out. Of course, Dora and Chester were shocked at the sudden question, but they had to admit it was something they did still consider from time to time. Paul took his opportunity and passed around the swabs. Each party took a sample from their cheeks and sealed them for testing. Paul put them aside and took his parents to the airport.
He Was Asked Not to Send the Kits
The flight home had given Dora and Chester a chance to think and talk properly about what had just happened. Now that they had a bit of separation from Paul’s sudden request, they realized they didn’t feel right about it and called Paul as soon as they were back on the ground. They didn’t want him to send the kits, they didn’t need to know the results. Paul was harder to convince.
His parents argued that he was their son, they’d raised him, and it didn’t matter what some test said. It wouldn’t change anything and it might only cause problems. If the results said that Paul wasn’t their son, then where was the baby they lost all that time ago? What would they need to do about that? Paul agonized over their request for two weeks, but in the end, he just had to know.
Paul Received a Call
“Everything I thought I knew about myself – my birthday, my medical history, being Polish, being Catholic, even being a Taurus – went out the window,” Paul said of that moment. “I didn’t know who I was.” Paul was understandably shocked. “I felt the color drain from my face. I couldn’t think. I got all sweaty,” he said. There were now two questions. Who was he? And where was Paul Fronczak?
He Called in Some Help
You’d be forgiven for assuming Paul’s first phone call would be to Dora and Chester Fronczak. Even if they hadn’t wanted him to send the tests, if he was going to tell anyone it would surely need to be them first. Paul thought differently. First, he hired a private investigator, George Knapp. Then, he called the media. “You’ve got to understand, the main reason I did this was to find my parents’ real child,” Paul said.
Paul claimed the couple had been amazing parents to him all through his life, and he wanted to give them something back. “The best gift I could give them would be to find their kidnapped child,” he explained. “I thought the best way to do this would be to invoke the help of the media.” Dora and Chester didn’t feel the same. They were furious and didn’t speak to Paul for over a year.
Paul Was Frozen Out
If Paul’s primary motivation was to find the real Paul Fronczak, he found himself immediately blocked from the investigation. Having proved that he wasn’t related to the Fronczak's, he’d also demonstrated that he had no legal right to any of the information uncovered in the reopened case. The FBI claimed ten boxes of evidence from the Chicago Police Department, but Paul could only gain hearsay information from a retired FBI agent from the original case.
This meant that Paul could only concentrate on finding his own biological parents. By this time, DNA testing was not only well established in the US, but it was big business too. CeCe Moore, genealogist turned TV presenter, offered the services of her volunteer DNA Detectives for free. Paul’s retired FBI detective, Bernie Carey, could only say of the other matter that the team had never been convinced he was the missing baby from Chicago.
Despite the huge developments in DNA testing and the rise of connectivity via social media, Paul’s search for his biological identity still wasn’t easy. None of these things were around in 1964 when he was born. DNA profiling didn’t become possible until the 80s and it would be another 20 years until social media began making personal information as accessible as it is today. The DNA suggested that Paul had Jewish ancestry on at least one side, but there was little more to go on.
The breakthrough came for CeCe Moore and her team when they interviewed a person who had been identified as a potential relative for Paul. Something in their family history raised a flag which made it seem like they could be looking in the right place. They mentioned that there had been a case of twins going missing from the family.
Another Missing Person
“What do you think of the name Jack?” CeCe said to Paul on the phone on July 3, 2015, after almost two years of helping him try to trace his biological family. Paul said it was a good name, it sounded strong. CeCe was pleased to hear this, taking a breath and delivering the big news to the man she had been introduced to as Paul. “Well, that’s your name,” she revealed.
That was the day that Paul discovered that he had been born on October 27, 1963, with the name Jack Rosenthal. In one sentence he had aged six months, but that wasn’t the biggest surprise CeCe had for him that day. Another baby had been born at the same time as Jack, a girl called Jill Rosenthal, his twin sister, and she was still missing. Paul knew immediately that he would need to find her.
There Were Family Traits
On meeting and learning about his extended biological family, Paul discovered he was related to another musician. He had a cousin named Lenny Rocco who had been a doo-wop singer since the 1950s. It made sense to Paul; none of his adopted family had been musical. He’d never been introduced to music, or even encouraged to pursue it, but he’d always been drawn to it and had played in bands himself.
Paul felt this said something important about how nature will contribute to who a person will become, rather than simply how they are nurtured. “To me, that really proves that you don’t have to be raised by your real parents to have those same qualities and traits,” he said. “I got to sit down and play with Lenny’s band,” he says, recalling one of the great things he experienced in meeting his biological family.
It Wasn’t a Surprise to CeCe Moore
As a genealogist who’d brought together thousands of lost relatives over the years, CeCe Moore had her own thoughts on the nature versus nurture debate, and she didn’t believe Paul’s experiences were at all uncommon. CeCe has said how amazing some of the similarities between reunited people are and the details are often far too close for it to be a simple coincidence.
“It’s not just how they look, it’s the choices they’ve made in life – who they’ve married, what they’ve named their children, what occupation they chose,” she says of the people she’s seen raised completely separately and brought together later in life. Some of the things people find they have in common are unbelievably specific. “Like the password on their phone,” CeCe says, before confirming. “I do believe that much more is coded in our DNA than we realize.”
It Wasn’t All Good News
While discovering some positive similarities with family members was good for Paul, there were some things he learned that were less uplifting. As he talked to more people, it began to look likely that he and his missing twin sister were neglected, along with their other three siblings: two more sisters and a brother. A cousin said they’d once seen the babies “in a cage”.
Other people claimed the babies were always crying and nobody could recall who exactly would be looking after them a lot of the time. Paul’s biological dad, Gilbert, had served in Korea and returned “an angry man”. His mother, Maria, was a heavy drinker. It was a far cry from the Fronczak family he’d grown up in, but Paul hadn’t looked for his birth family in search of happiness, he’d done it to find the truth - all sides of it.
Paul Felt Lucky
“My real parents were not very nice people,” Paul said. He talks about the good and the bad of his journey to find the truth about his heritage in The Foundling, a book about his experiences. “I’m thankful that they abandoned me because it allowed me to be with the Fronczaks,” he goes on to explain. He says sincerely of his adopted family, “They saved my life.”
His concerns about his birth family really turn dark when it comes to the subject of Jill, his missing twin sister. He has a belief that Jill must have suffered a tragedy of some sort that took her away from the family. Under this suspicion, he went as far as to dig up the garden of the old family home in search of human remains. He believes his removal from the Rosenthal family came because “they couldn’t explain just one twin.”
Dora Fronczak Blamed Herself
“We need your baby,” the woman who appeared to be a nurse said to Dora Fronczak on that day in April 1964, so Dora handed her baby over as requested, as any mother would in the maternity ward of a hospital. She blamed herself for that action her entire life, she confessed to Paul in tears two years after those explosive DNA test results.
Paul couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to carry that burden around every day. “My mom has this never-ending guilt of handing Paul over to the nurse," he said. “I know now that those events shaped my mom into the way she is today.” Paul wasn’t the only person deeply affected by the history of the family and now Dora knew her real son was still missing. Her guilt must have felt unbearable.
An Unexpected Photo Album
Dora had taken some time to process things and began repairing her relationship with Paul to the point they could finally start to talk openly about things. She revealed she’d been withholding something from him all his life: a photo album. He’d been a toddler when he was adopted by the Fronczacs, so he’d never seen a baby photo of himself. “Even my real family has no baby pictures of me,” he said.
“My [biological] grandmother had a photo album with all the kids in chronological order,” he says, before adding, darkly, “and the page with the twins was ripped out.” Dora had a photo album from Paul’s time as Scott McKinley with the Eckherts, she’d had it all his life but he’d never seen it before. “It makes me kind of misty,” he admits. “These are the first pictures I have of me being a child.”
After living such an extraordinarily confusing life, Paul wanted to release a book about his experiences, and he wanted it to be as open as possible. Dora Fronczak was less comfortable with his choice to do this. “She wishes that I hadn’t been quite so open and honest about everything,” Paul says. Though Chester Fronczak has passed away, Paul still talks to Dora, now in her 80s, regularly.
Having written his book, The Foundling, doesn’t mean the story is over and Paul hasn’t given up on either of his searches. He is still working with a private investigator to find Dora’s biological child, and he is still looking for his twin sister, Jill. Though it is looking like the outcome of both may be more grisly than he’d hoped. He claims to have strong leads on both missing children, but they both require him to exhume bodies. Paul told The Sun Online, "I will leave no stone unturned. I really think we are going to find Jill."
Paul Was Consumed
Paul’s marriage to Michelle didn’t last the distance and he has acknowledged that his obsession with searching for himself and the two missing children was very likely a contributor to the relationship breaking down. “It got to the point where every waking minute I was doing something involved with this search,” he says. The two remain good friends and share a daughter, Emma.
Despite the cost, Paul doesn’t regret the decisions he has made in terms of looking for the truth about his origins and he still intends to exhume the bodies, no matter how expensive it is or how complicated the process becomes. “This was something that I had to do,” he explains. “It has made me feel more at peace.” Paul feels he is constantly learning about himself and why he is who he is.
What Had the Truth Done to Paul
CeCe Moore looked at things from another angle. While Paul would see every new truth as something he was learning about himself, CeCe wondered what the process itself would be doing to Paul. What happened during those psychiatric tests the FBI performed on him as a toddler? What has every aspect of this life-long quest for knowledge done to Paul as a person?
Paul might not look at the process quite in this way, but he absolutely believes his early years have shaped his personality. “I’m able to walk away from anybody, any job, any situation, and never look back,” he says, something proved by the many changes he’s made in his life. He points to the dramatic changes and uncertainties which came from having three families before even starting school, and how they shaped his approach to life. “It’s about survival. It’s about getting to the next day.”
The Search Goes On
The man who currently goes by the name Paul Fronczak has made many discoveries in his life since that day he stumbled across two boxes in 1974, but he still has more to make. He is who he is and he is very open about it, not least to his daughter, who is now old enough to understand the situation - as much as anyone can. She keeps him grounded too, occasionally calling him Jack as a tease.
On the topic of his name, he has had a very clear plan about his intentions for it. Right now, he is Paul Fronczak, and he says, “I’m going to stay Paul until they find Paul.” Once that happens, he plans to return the name to its rightful owner. “The day I find Paul, I’m going to hand him his birth certificate,” he states. “And I’m going to claim mine.” But just when you thought the twists and turns had ended, another shocking development to the story has come to light. The real Paul Fronczak was eventually found...
When Kevin Was Once Paul
Kevin Baty, who grew up in the town of Manton, was in his 50s when he discovered that Kevin was not his original name. It turns out that Kevin, who was a machinist and mold maker, was the baby that was stolen from the hospital, the real Paul Fronczak. As part of the nationwide search for Paul, DNA samples were submitted by many, including the daughter of Kevin Baty. While Baty never returned Jack Rosenthal's calls, he did eventually make contact with Dora, his biological mother.
While the identity of the nurse who stole Paul (Kevin) still remains a mystery, it is reported that Lorraine Fountain, the woman who raised Kevin, dated a doctor and moved away one year, only to return with a baby - presumably the stolen one. Lorraine Fountain died in 2004, so her secret, if she has one, went with her to the grave. Sadly, only a year and a half after learning the truth, on 25 April 2020, Kevin Baty died of cancer. This means that Jack Rosenthal still needs to uncover the truth regarding his twin sister and the nurse who stole the real Paul.
What Really Happened to the Missing Girl From the Netherlands?
One seemingly regular day, teenage girl Nicole van den Hurk vanished from the face of the earth and was never heard from again. Nicole didn’t have an easy life even in her younger days. She was struggling to lead an ordinary teenage life while juggling her studies and job as a bakery worker. Finally, she found some peace and settled to live with her stepbrother at her grandmother’s house.
But that day wasn’t regular at all. Nicole went missing. Investigations into her disappearance lead to the cold and the case was almost forgotten. Two decades later, a confession came up in a Facebook post that opened a can of worms. Here's what happened to Nicole van den Hurk.
Nicole van den Hurk was born in July 1980 in Erkelenz, a small town in Germany. She was raised there in her infant days with her mother Angelika Tegtmeier and stepfather Ad van den Hurk. When Nicole was born, her biological father was married to someone else. Even at the onset, her life was already complicated. She had a stepbrother, Andy. By the time she was three, her parents took the two of them and moved to the Netherlands. However, her mother was battling mental issues and often stayed alone in her bedroom for hours. Growing up, her life was still the same.
Even from when she was born to when she’s growing up and being more aware of their situation, Nicole’s family life was somewhat complicated and unstable. She still loved her parents, though. But as she grew older, Angelika and Ad were slowly growing apart, and she started noticing it. Eventually, she received the news. Ad and her mother were getting a divorce. By that time, Nicole was just eight years old, but she understood the weight of the situation, nonetheless. Little did they know, it was the last time that they were going to see each other. A series of happenings led to that event.
New Family Solution
What was once a good relationship was coming to an end. Later on, their fights escalated and multiplied to the point that there were more arguments than kisses between Ad and Angelika. There were even days that they would let pass by without at least talking to each other. Eventually, they went on to get a divorce. Things were not working out between them and their relationship anymore. Before it gets worse in time, they reached a decision. Now that everything was out in the open, they were both nervous about what will become of it. But then, Ad had something else in mind.
Ad and Angelika’s decision was final. However, before the process was even finished, Ad was already on the move. No one knew about it, not even Nicole. She was surprised as he broke the news to her. Ad asked for full custody of her and to have her live with him until she turns 18. Angelika’s mental illness made her unstable enough to keep a home or even take care of a child. It was what compelled Ad to make this move. He was legally Nicole’s stepfather, but despite that, Ad sees her as his daughter. They maintained a substantial relationship that developed after many years. Ad appealed to have full custody of Nicole. Though taken by surprise, Nicole was happy to hear about it. Hearing news about her parent’s divorce made her worried that she was going to live alone with a woman who can hardly function on her own, much less take care of her daughter. Ad appealed to have full custody of Nicole. Though taken by surprise, Nicole was happy to hear about it. Hearing news about her parent’s divorce made her worried that she was going to live alone with a woman who can hardly function on her own, much less take care of her daughter.
Still in the Chaos
The chaos of the divorce and custody appeal is over. Ad found a new house for all three of them and eventually moved in. It was just a new house but is still in the same city where they grew up in. However, Ad is elsewhere most of the time as he is in the music industry. He was finding it hard to balance his family at home and his work life. Soon after, Ad reached out to his mother to seek help. Her house is just minutes away from their home, and the kids grew to love her. Sometimes, she goes to stay at Ad’s house, and other times, she takes them to her flat.
Everything was going quite well, even with Ad. Just a few months later, he found Jolanda, a woman whom he wanted to marry. They only met through mutual friends and by both being in the music industry. Ad then brought Jolanda home so that Nicole and Andy could meet her. Surprisingly, they all got along well. Before they even knew it, Jolanda had moved in and married their father. Given that she was also in the same industry as their father’s, they traveled for work a lot. Still the same, neither of them was home to look after Nicole and Andy, who are still young and needed a lot of love and attention.
As this news was good and well for the family, it was not for others. Soon enough, the news of Ad’s remarriage reached Angelika, and it left her heartbroken. It turns out that she was still in love with Ad, and that getting a divorce was not her idea at all. Though she was still trying and reaching out for help regarding her mental health issues, things took a wrong turn. The news was too much for Angelika and as bad as it is, it turned out to be the last nail in her coffin. Just weeks after that, she committed suicide in her own home. It was quite unexpected news for everyone. Even so, the whole family supported Nicole in this dark time.
Nicole grew up on his father’s side and away from her mother but despite that, she was still devastated by her mother’s death. She never had the chance to become closer to Angelika due to the mental illness that her mother battles with, especially after the divorce and their move to the new house. Ad took extra measures for her care, making sure that she remains surrounded by family while she grieved. Days passed and Nicole grew into a teenager. She got employed at a local bakery and worked her shift daily after school. The bakery was just a bike ride from her home.
Out and About
Going through the death of a family member is never easy, much more if it’s someone who gave birth to you. Still, Nicole stayed strong and grew even stronger. She continued with her everyday life not long after that her father and grandmother were impressed by how well she handled it. She still got sad at times, but she brushed it off by going to the bakery to work. Nicole grew to love her job, as she had found a new purpose there. She rode her bike to get to and from work and home. These were dark times, but she still managed to carry on.
Though Nicole was already back up to her feet, the feeling of loss still lingered. It was a good thing that she had a good set of friends that she grew up with and with whom she can confide. As if a part of her coping mechanism, Nicole was rarely found at home; either she was at work or school, or she was with any of her friends. Since their parents were always away, Nicole and Andy were pretty much allowed to do almost everything they wanted. Their grandmother was not that strict but still needed to be informed of their whereabouts to avoid worrying her.
Off to Work
Nicole’s daily routine revolved around going to school in the morning and proceeding to work in the afternoon. One particular day in her routine, she just got out of school and went home to her grandmother’s house to prepare for work as usual. A few minutes passed and she went on to say goodbye to her grandmother before leaving. Nicole took her purse and keys and hopped on her bike to head to the bakery. There was never a day that she was late for work. However, this day was far from ordinary. Fifteen minutes had passed and she was still not where she was supposed to be.
The owner of the bakery, who was also Nicole’s employer, started to get worried. He did not have contact details for Nicole’s guardians, so he went ahead and called the police to pronounce the situation. He was starting to get worried that he needed someone to come out to the city and try to look for Nicole. Minutes later, a team of police raked the area to look for the 15-year-old girl. They soon found Nicole’s grandmother’s house and were able to inform her of what happened. The grandmother hurriedly called Ad to let him know of the situation. Nicole was known to be punctual, so the store owner immediately knew that something was wrong when she didn’t show up that day. He even went out to look if he could see any hints of Nicole coming. When he saw nothing, he tried calling her house. Since there was no one at Ad’s home, he was left with no choice. The store owner called the police. As soon as the police came, they started asking passersby around the area to ask if anyone has seen a girl resembling Nicole. Much to their disappointment, no one seemed to see anyone or anything.
Not a Single Trace
The police continued searching for Nicole in the area. 30 minutes into the hunt, they finally saw something. Abandoned along the banks of Dommel River was Nicole’s bike. With such an essential clue, a search team immediately started looking for Nicole in the waters. For hours and hours, they looked for Nicole. Unfortunately, her body was nowhere to be found. In a judgment of their fruitless search, the police concluded that she was not in the river. Amidst the dark and cloudy waters of the river, they were sure to explore every inch for her body, but to no avail.
As soon as the bad news reached him, Ad rushed towards home and back to his family. It was beyond his imagination how Nicole was missing. He knew that she was not one to run away, but that only led him to fear the worst. Until one morning, he received a call from the police. They announced that they hadn't found Nicole yet, but they had found a canvas bag. It was found out that the same bag was in Nicole’s possession on that day when she left for work. Finding the canvas bag next to a canal, the police planned to search the area the next day.
The Search Continues
Finding Nicole’s bike and then her bag may seem like big clues, but they still could not get a hold of her body. Nonetheless, the police still used those as leads of where to look for Nicole. They started searching for her around the area where they found the bag. Ad was also asked to come to the police headquarters. They asked Ad if Nicole had any tendencies to run away from home. A thought struck the authorities that she may have reached out to other family members in Germany. As a father who is well-acquainted with her daughter, Ad knew that was impossible.
The investigation never stopped, the police continued with their search. They also started accepting tips, and even put out a monetary award in exchange for a tip that would lead to Nicole’s whereabouts. Many times Ad and Nicole’s grandmother had been interviewed repeatedly. At the end of the day, all of them were still left with nothing despite the number of leads that came their way. As days and weeks passed by, Ad was getting more and more upset. He started thinking that the police were not giving it their all as they had not found Nicole yet.
The search had gone on and on but to no avail. Every single person who was ever involved with Nicole has already given their statements through police interrogations: her boyfriend, friends, and even some strangers. The police were doing all they could just to get Nicole home safe and sound. To see if there was more to what they let on, Ad and Nicole’s grandmother had been interviewed many times. Everything they had gathered was recorded and written down in full detail. Despite the number of man-hours spent on searching for the teen, they still got nothing.
Nicole was yet to be found, and Ad’s temperament is getting worse by the day. His wife Jolanda stayed by his side through these tough times. She helped the family through it all and hired a known psychic to see if they can get more clues that may have been overlooked. No one among them would have thought of that. Out of utter desperation, they met with the psychic. She advised them to fixate their search on two specific canals in the river due to a flittering feeling that Nicole’s body was going to be found there. Trusting her intuition alone, they proceeded to follow her word. They heeded the psychic’s advice seriously. Right after that, Ad told the police what they were just advised to do. The police knew that though there isn’t any guarantee that anything will come out of it, they also had nothing to lose. So they decided to search the area with the help of K-9 dogs. There was so much hope for this hunt, but still, nothing came up. The dogs were not able to find a single hit and now they’re back to the beginning again. Losing all hope after gaining nothing from the searches, the police thought that the lost teen was nowhere to be found anymore.
Found at Last
Days and weeks had passed until it was already two months since Nicole’s sudden disappearance. Finally, their search for her body came to an end. Somewhere near the van den Hurk house, a random hiker was exploring the woods when something odd caught his eye. It was quite far, so he came closer to take a look. Closing the distance between him and the object, what he saw shocked him – it was a dead body. He immediately called the police and just within minutes, they were on the scene. A series of forensic and DNA confirmed that it was indeed Nicole’s body.
Nicole has been gone for months, and that long of a time is not good whether she is already dead or still alive. That amount of time led her to a very unfortunate end. Still, they did not have a concrete conclusion to her cause of death. There was, however, speculation that she was stabbed by a knife. Her family was speechless from the shock of what they heard. All that time, they held on to the hope that they would still find her alive even after days of nothingness. It was a huge punch to the guts, finding out that she has been murdered cold-heartedly.
Identifying the Suspect
Where there is a dead body and a murder scene, there’s a murderer. Nicole’s rotting body was now more difficult to search for clues. Some sort of DNA evidence or any clue is important; the police hoped that they could find anything that would lead them to the suspect. After a couple of days, they finally handed her body to her family. Without delay, Ad arranged to have Nicole’s funeral that weekend. Though they searched her body, the police found no leads. They still wanted to dig more into it as they interviewed Ad and his mother again, not yet satisfied with finding nothing in Nicole’s body.
Losing Nicole was one thing; finding out that she was murdered heartlessly was another. Alongside the van den Hurks, thousands of people came to express their condolences. The Dutch community gathered as they paid their respects to this poor young girl who was gone too soon. Nicole was just a girl; despite her life’s misery, she had friends and a family who love her dearly. On top of that, she still had a bright future ahead of her. But that was all gone because of an inhumane deed done to her. As if that was not unfortunate enough, the police were not able to obtain any further leads even after finding Nicole’s body. Determined, they still did not give up on the case that they even set their sights on Nicole’s family.
Into the Van Den Hurks
After getting nothing from their searches, the police shifted their attention to looking at Ad, Andy, and even Nicole’s grandmother. Her stepbrother Andy, who was five years older than her, had never been part of the investigation until that moment. Andy had moved back home with his father since Nicole's disappearance. Everyone was taken by surprise when Ad and Andy were arrested six months after Nicole’s funeral. They were found to be possible suspects in Nicole’s case. They were kept in the interview room for hours, but the police had no sufficient evidence to keep them in custody, so they were let go.
Lack of evidence eventually led to Ad and Andy’s freedom, so they just headed back to their home. For months on end, the authorities never ceased working on the murder case until they had nothing left to work with anymore. The case was almost going cold when something came up. Recently, a family friend was arrested for drug trafficking, claiming that she knew things about Nicole’s case. She started mentioning the names of people she worked for and claimed that they were involved in Nicole’s disappearance and murder. However, they suspected that she was just trying to strike a shortened prison time deal with law enforcers.
Life Goes On
After years and years of finding nothing, Ad already felt defeated. 15 years had passed and Nicole would have been in her thirties already, but the murderer who cut her life short was still unidentified. Ad did not stop hoping and begging the police not to stop putting in efforts until they found the killer. There was nothing left for him to do but to wait. All those years, he had already done everything that he could, praying for someone who may have seen something to call and make progress with the investigation again.
Nicole’s disappearance and murder trapped the van den Hurks in a rut for a long time, but as hard as it was, life had to go on. The year was 2011 when they started picking themselves back up. Ad pursued his career and continued working in the music industry, but still lived in the Netherlands. On the other hand, Andy moved to England for a fresh start. Despite the distance, Ad and Andy kept close contact and talked to each other regularly. Soon enough, Ad resigned himself to the fact that he just had to let it go. Andy thought differently, for he couldn’t let go of the fact that the murderer was still on the loose. He decided to act on it.
He Murdered Her
After being stuck for a long time, Andy became suffocated with Dutch life as it has become stifling. He needed to go somewhere else to clear his mind, so he went and surrounded himself with something new. But still, he could not seem to move on from Nicole’s death; he felt that no murderer was going to be found if he would not do something about it. Ad remained mournful as months and years passed. His daughter’s case was still not resolved, and with the way things were going, he was not satisfied. They weren’t just going to waste time waiting if there was anything else that they could do.
Much to everyone’s surprise, a Facebook post revealing the culprit popped up. It was from Andy. He posted on his social media, telling his family and friends that it was he who killed Nicole. Right after the public feat, Andy walked straight into the nearest British police to turn himself in. He faced the authorities as he repeated his confession. Andy was arrested immediately and was extradited to the Netherlands to stand trial for the case. He was kept in jail when he got back in the Netherlands and did not talk to anyone else, not even with his father.
The Real Story
Andy’s confession added a new record to the case. He was kept in jail, but his captivation only lasted for a week. The police tried to sort things out during his time in jail. Not long enough, they knew that they could not keep Andy in their custody any longer for they were not able to find any concrete evidence to hold him down. Andy’s social media post was something, but that was not enough proof in court. Smelling something fishy, the police interviewed Ad about his son’s confession. His only answer was maybe Andy was just trying to be in the spotlight after it was shining on Nicole for too long.
Ad has no way of knowing whether Andy was telling the truth or not. Either way, he did not like what Andy was doing. He had just moved to Spain recently after having divorced Jolanda; he needed a break so he distanced himself away from all the media attention growing in his hometown. At that point, Jolanda was brought into the investigation as well. She was also interviewed, but she has nothing to say except that she thinks there was an ulterior motive behind Andy’s actions. She could not seem to fathom exactly what it was, but knowing Andy, she could tell that he would never do such a thing.
For years, all the attention was on Nicole; when she went missing, while looking for her, and even when she was found, there was still the investigation for her murderer. Andy was kept in jail due to his confession but was let out in just a matter of days due to a lack of evidence. However, when Ad was interviewed about it, he had something different in mind. He thought that Andy was only doing it so that, for once, he could be the one under the spotlight and instead of his stepsister. Little did Ad know, there was more to what Andy had done.
Just moments after Andy’s release, he took the world by surprise one more time. If in his first confession he claimed that he was the one who killed Nicole, his next declaration said otherwise. Andy announced that he did not kill Nicole and that he confessed as a criminal to bring the case back to the limelight. This time, he asserted that his father Ad was the real culprit. He said that Ad raped Nicole and that she became pregnant with his child. Ad killed her so that no one would know about it. Once again, the public was shocked by such revelations. Ad was dumbfounded as to what Andy was really up to.
Andy was desperate; he wanted the police to start investigating Ad again. On the other hand, Ad denied everything right after hearing the sensational news. He was firm that there was no way that he could ever do that to Nicole, his daughter that he even fought for custody of. Ad was rendered speechless that Andy could go as far as to betray him like that. Later on, Andy disclosed to the media that he was doing all of these hoping that the confessions would lead to having Nicole’s body exhumed. He believed that the police needed to see once again if they could extract any trace of foreign DNA from her body that might have been overlooked before.
Now that the police were forced into a corner, it was revealed that all those years waiting for nothing were for naught. They came to realize that they didn’t even perform proper investigations in the first place. Nicole’s body had to be unearthed to see if Andy was telling the truth. If they did find a DNA strain, it was best to hope that it would be enough to at least find a suspect. There was no time to waste. The police then discharged a team to take Nicole’s body to the Netherlands Forensic Institute. This time, they were determined to go on until there are absolutely no stones left unturned.
The Waiting Game
In September 2011, Nicole van den Hurk’s body was dug up from the ground for reexamination. It took several days because they wanted to do it right and search her thoroughly this time. So the waiting game started, for that was all that they could do, to wait. Ad was confident that his DNA would not be found on her body but hoped they would discover something nonetheless. Ever since Andy’s wild accusation, Ad had not spoken to him. He still felt betrayed by his son and whatever his reason was, Ad was not sure if he could ever move on from it. At last, the long wait is over.
The results of the DNA testing came in. Sure enough, there was no trace of Ad, but there was indeed a foreign DNA found on Nicole’s body, and it belonged to a man. The police went public with the results at hand and immediately received new leads from the people. In addition to the reward money offered before, they even increased it just to find the murderer faster. What was deemed to be a stale cold case was now alive and burning again because of the results. They already had a lead, and that was more than just a start.
The long wait had put everyone at the edge of their seats. The second Ad heard the news, his heart skipped a beat. This could be the moment he had been waiting for, for almost two decades now. He could finally get the answers that he had been looking for. They felt closer than ever to finding the culprit behind the unspeakable crime.
Finally, they got a break in the case. The foreign DNA found on Nicole’s body matched with someone, and he was already in their criminal database. Andy’s efforts, though scandalous, were not in vain after all.
The foreign DNA of a man that was found on Nicole’s dead body matched with a man named Jos de G., a former psychiatric patient and convicted rapist. Aside from finding his DNA on Nicole’s body, they still needed to find the reason why. Nonetheless, the 46-year-old man already has a record of being arrested as a criminal for raping three different women in three isolated cases. They interviewed Jos, and he revealed that he had left his house the same day that Nicole disappeared. He recalled having a heated argument with his girlfriend before going out to take a walk.
Jos de G. was already penalized for his past crimes. For one of the convictions he faced, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment and was ordered to get treatment due to his past. His interrogation disclosed the fact that on the same day that Nicole had disappeared, he had left his house too. That day, he had a heated argument with his girlfriend and decided that he needed some time away to clear his head so he went outside and took a walk. These findings led to having him tried in court, wherein his trial was scheduled to begin in the winter of 2015.
It was a big step to have found Jos’ DNA on Nicole’s body, but apparently, there was more to it. His lawyer put forth the fact that there were more DNA strains than one found on Nicole’s body, which meant it was not Jos’ alone. He also stated that the other traces found on the body came from Andy and Nicole’s boyfriend. To his defense, Jos’s lawyer claimed that Jos and Nicole had known each other, and there was consensual sex going on between the two before Nicole’s death. But then, the prosecution countered the defense’s argument. They counterclaimed that Nicole was at the wrong place at the wrong time and encountered Jos, who was still boiling from a fight.
The defense was not the only side prepared for the trial; the prosecution also had their claims as to what happened. They insisted that Nicole did not know Jos. Nicole and Jos only crossed paths that fateful day, in which Jos was already clouded with his rage. It was most likely that Jos took out his anger on the innocent girl. In just a moment, Nicole’s life was taken from her, and she was not at fault at all. On the other hand, Jos’ lawyer stuck to his argument by assertively trying to discredit the DNA findings from Nicole’s body.
Due to their persistent claims, the defense asked the court to have the DNA samples be tested again. They pushed the fact that the findings displayed DNA strains from three different people, so blaming Jos was unreasonable and wrong. The court accepted the appeal and had the DNA re-analyzed. It took weeks for the testing to come back with concrete evidence. When the results were out, a spokesperson for the health institute came to announce the results. It was demonstrated that it still was a million times more likely that the DNA found was from Jos.
The prosecution had heard enough. They immediately asked the court to have Jos be penalized by serving time in prison for at least 14 years. The fact that Nicole would ever have a casual relationship with a man who was more than three times her age was unimaginable to them. However, the trial closed with an unwarranted decision. Jos’ charges dropped from murder to manslaughter and rape. The trial ended in November 2016, and the verdict was disclosed. As anxious as everyone who had been waiting had been, the sentencing was not what anyone would have expected to hear.
The trial lasted for almost two years and then the verdict was out. Much to everyone’s disappointment, Jos was not found guilty of the manslaughter charge, though he was found guilty of rape. In the end, he was just given a five-year imprisonment sentence. It was a much lesser charge than what everyone believed he deserved, but the judge was left with not much of a choice. The judge had to give a more lenient sentence for he was decisive that Jos was legally insane at the time the crime was committed. It made the public unhappy; they believed Jos deserved a much heavier sentence. But then, they couldn’t do anything with the path that justice had taken.
Even after being accused of murder, Jos only got a much shorter prison time than the public expected him to have. The court put much consideration after weighing his mental state and decided to give him that sentence. They believed that he was legally insane when he committed the crime. Unfortunately for the angry public, Jos’ ruling lightened excessively. Aside from that, it could not be denied that there were still three other DNA traces found on Nicole’s body. It was enough to cast a shroud of uncertainty. Nonetheless, they still believed that Jos was not penalized enough. Of all the enraged followers of the case, Ad was the most affected one. The news shattered him to pieces; this was not how he had hoped Nicole’s justice to be served. The amount of time that he spent waiting for this moment was no joke. Five years was not enough to justify what was done to his beloved daughter. Andy was so lost; he did not know what to believe anymore. Andy strongly believed that his father was involved with the murder. He took Jos’ five-year sentence as a bad joke. While there are two sides to every story, the full story of what happened to Nicole might never be learned.