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DNA sweep solves murder of teenage girl after 13 years

Police believe the murder of a 16-year-old girl 13 years ago has been solved thanks to the largest DNA sweep ever undertaken in the Netherlands.

Marianne Vaatstra's body was found near this path in Veenklooster in May 1999.Marianne Vaastra’s body was found in a meadow in Veenklooster, Friesland, in May 1999. She had been raped, strangled and had her throat slit.

On Sunday night a 45-year-old man was arrested at his farm in Oud Woude, two and a half kilometres from the scene of the crime, after his DNA matched a crucial piece of evidence.

At the time of the murder suspicion fell on two asylum seekers who were staying in a nearby detention centre, but DNA tests revealed they were not linked to the killing.

Detectives’ main clue was a cigarette lighter found at the scene. The lighter had been bought locally, suggesting that the killer lived in the area, and contained a DNA trace that did not match the dead girl.

See a map of key locations in the Marianne Vaatstra murder case

A DNA profile later indicated that the murderer was likely to be a white male. On the strength of this finding the public prosecutor’s office (Openbare Ministerie) applied in June this year to take voluntary DNA samples from more than 8000 local men.

Prosecutors hoped that the exercise would identify the killer through his family members. But when the test results came back they contained a 100% match, meaning the sample came from the murderer himself.

Crime journalist Peter R. de Vries, who featured the case in his popular TV show, said the suspect was a local farmer with apparently no criminal history.

Marianne Vaatstra’s family in the nearby village of Zwaagwesteinde spoke of their relief that the case had finally been solved.

Her father, Bauke, told Radio 1: “It’s a huge shock, even though we expected it. I’m glad we’ve got him. It’s incredible what goes through your mind.

“At first you think it can’t be happening because it’s been 13 years and then suddenly you get a phone call one Sunday night at around 11 o’clock with the message: we’ve got him.”

A team of around 20 police personnel searched the suspect’s home on Monday morning following the arrest.

The Dutch national forensic institute in The Hague will double-check the DNA sample, but prosecutors are said to consider the case closed.