French victims of 'horror' dentist get compensation

A March 2016 file photo shows people awaiting the start of dentist Jacobus van Nierop's trial in Nevers, central France.
A March 2016 file photo shows people awaiting the start of dentist Jacobus van Nierop's trial in Nevers, central France.PHOTO: AFP

DIJON, France (AFP) - Seventeen victims of a Dutch dentist jailed for deliberately mangling their mouths in a town in central France have received compensation of up to €40,000 (S$60,000), their lawyer said on Thursday (Sept 8).

The former patients of Jacobus van Nierop, dubbed the "dentist of horror", have each received at least €4,000 from a government fund for crime victims, with total awards ranging between €5,000 and €40,000, the lawyer, Charles Joseph-Oudin, told AFP.

They are the first group of a total 85 former patients recognised as victims of violence at the hands of Van Nierop, who was based in the town of Chateau-Chinon.

Of those, a court in nearby Nevers deemed 45 to have been "mutilated".

Van Nierop was jailed for eight years in April after the court found him guilty of ripping out healthy teeth and leaving dozens of patients with injuries including broken jaws, recurrent abscesses and septicaemia.

He was also convicted of fraud over claims that he tried to rip off patients and insurance companies.

The court found that 61 people were victims of fraud.

It also banned Van Nierop, who claimed he suffered from "psychological problems" and had suicidal tendencies, from practising as a dentist and fined him 10,500 euros.

The next batch of compensation awards, for 10 more victims, will be decided on Oct 3.

"Some are waiting for the compensation so they can continue their treatment," said Nicole Martin, head of the victims' group.

The victims were unable to lodge claims with Van Nierop's insurer after a court ruling that allowed it to cancel his contract because he had covered up prior run-ins with the Dutch dental association.

Van Nierop, who called himself Mark, was hired by a head-hunter and was initially welcomed by locals when he arrived in their area, which lacked medical services, in 2008.

But by 2011, patients were starting to compare notes on his dubious dentistry and some of his accounting practices were beginning to raise suspicions.

The court heard nightmarish tales, including one from Sylviane Boulesteix, 65, who saw Van Nierop in March 2012 to have braces fitted.

"He gave me seven or eight injections, and pulled out eight teeth in one go. I was gushing blood for three days," she said.

Another man had 13 healthy teeth treated and ended up with a growth that deformed his face.

Around 120 former patients joined a victims' group set up in early 2013.

Van Nierop was arrested in June 2013, but fled France while awaiting trial. He was later tracked down to a small town in Canada, arrested and extradited first to the Netherlands and then to France.