Dutch police find body of abducted four-year-old Belgian boy

Police officers are seen near vehicles on the site where the body of missing Dean Verberckmoes was found in Zeeland on Jan 17, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Dutch police late on Monday (Jan 17) discovered the body of a Belgian child, whose disappearance five days ago sparked a massive search spanning two countries.

The body of four-year-old Dean Verberckmoes was found in the southern Dutch Zeeland province after a man was arrested elsewhere in the Netherlands earlier during the day, the police said.

"We thank everybody who helped and are sending condolences to his family," they added.

The police said the body was discovered at Neeltje Jans, an island that forms part of the Oosterschelde flood barrier and is popular with Dutch tourists.

Police earlier on Monday also sent out a so-called Amber Alert - issued in child abduction cases - with the description of the toddler and a picture.

The alert came after police arrested a 34-year-old Belgian man in the town of Meerkerk, south of Utrecht, about 120km north-east of Neeltje Jans.

Verberckmoes was last seen in the Belgian city of Sint Niklaas near Antwerp on Wednesday in the company of the man, only identified as Dave De K., the NOS public broadcaster reported.

De K. regularly minded Dean and his younger sister, the toddler's mother told the Belga news agency.

The man was supposed to take the child to his grandparents on Thursday and when that did not happen, the mother reported him missing.

Dutch police launched a massive search after it became known that De K. and the toddler may be in the Netherlands.

"The police investigation pointed to a possible crime scene on Monday evening... and a police helicopter also joined the search," Dutch police said.

"Around 10pm (2100 GMT) the lifeless body of a child was found," the police said.

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