AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – A woman who fatally crushed a teenager with her car after he snatched her purse will be prosecuted, authorities said Friday.
The early 2005 incident assumed national importance and inflamed tensions with the country’s Moroccan community. The 19-year-old man came from a Moroccan family and the filmmaker Theo van Gogh had been murdered by a Muslim radical just two months earlier.
Some sympathized with the driver, believing she justifiably chased the thief and killed him accidentally. But many in Amsterdam’s Moroccan community said the incident reflected Dutch disdain for them.
The story had many complexities, including the youth’s criminal background and the driver’s record of reckless driving.
The woman, identified as Germaine C., 45, was in her car when the teenager, identified as Ali el Bejjati, grabbed her purse from the back seat and then hopped on a scooter driven by a friend, prosecutors said Friday.
The woman chased them with her car in reverse and hit the scooter, pinning the thief against a tree. He died on the spot. His accomplice fled on foot.
The woman was arrested, interrogated and released several days later.
The prosecution said in a statement that formal charges would be filed later, adding they could range from vehicular homicide to reckless driving.
The national broadcaster, NOS news, reported that the woman had told police she wanted only to “bump” the scooter. It also reported she had previously been cited for driving in reverse on a freeway.
El Bejjati had been convicted before of purse theft and was awaiting trial on armed robbery charges when he died.
The article is pretty on the spot, but for US readers a few things might blur the issue at hand.
- What is NOT stated, is that the family of the young man pressured the plaintiff A LOT to go ahead and charge the woman. Lots of publicity, lots of “racial” thrown in etc (car robberies like happen a lot and ARE often the work of Moroccan youngsters);
- A “chase in reverse” is probably not the right wording. I saw a map of the scene. What happened was she was at a stop sign, the guy grabbed her purse from the right seat and fled. She reversed, but the crash happened less than 50 yards from the robbery, it was nothing like a high speed chase or something.
- One thing to understand which is WAY different than in the States. As far as I understand, in the US you have the right, no, are even morally obliged to protect your property and family, if needed with force. Here and in most European countries, the state has what is called “violence-monopoly”. If you bust a burglar in your house and kill or injure him (instead of waiting for the police), chances are fair you’ll end up in custody much longer than the burglar would have been. I have heard there has been a court case in the US where when a car hijacker was shot and killed by the driver, the driver walked away as the hijacker entered his private property. Won’t go here, ever.
So, this woman is probably in a worser case than she would have been in the US. As a note, I probably would have done the same and claimed temporary insanity.
Added Dec 2007: In an unusual move, the defense formally objected the case being brought forward, as the chance of conviction was next to nothing. That objection has been disregarded by the court and now, 3 years after the event, Germaine C. will have to go to trial. If she is convicted, it will be best case (for her) for what is called here “death by guilt”, maximum sentence 3 years in prison, worst case maximum 15 years if she convicted of willfully chasing and killing the guy. To be continued.