Case that shocked Netherlands ends with gymnastics coach jailed

The defendant received a 12-year sentence for the manslaughter and sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl who trained at his club

At the end of a court case that has re-ignited a national debate about how to ensure the safety of young athletes, a 33-year-old gymnastics coach has been sentenced to 12 years in jail in the Netherlands for the manslaughter and sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl who trained at his club.

Judges in The Hague heard that the girl, named only as “Esmee”, had had an abusive sexual relationship with the coach since she was 13 years old, and had been a regular visitor to his home in Leiden up to the point when she went missing between Christmas and New Year 2021.

There was nationwide shock when, after an extensive search of the university town in the hope of finding her alive, Esmee’s body was discovered by a group of walkers on December 31st. She was propped against a tree in a Leiden park. The coach, Olivier van de G, was arrested on the same day.

Esmee, who worked part-time at a local stables because she wanted to join the mounted police, was buried after a funeral in which her remains were carried in a white horse-drawn carriage – flanked by an honour guard of police officers on horseback.


Van de G claimed during the trial that he couldn’t remember exactly how Esmee had died, other than that there had been an argument which became “a fight”, after which he realised that she was no longer breathing.

At that point, he said, he “tried to erase all traces of their relationship”.

The court heard that he brought Esmee’s body on the back of his bicycle to the park, threw her mobile phone in a canal, and then returned to his apartment to remove any other tell-tale signs.

You ended the life of a 14-year-old girl who had placed her trust in you

The judges also heard evidence from the Pieter Baan Centre, a forensic psychiatric observation clinic, that the defendant suffers from a personality disorder and that he has a sexual preference for adolescent girls aged 12 to 16.

They ruled there was insufficient evidence that the coach had intended to kill Esmee, but found him guilty of manslaughter, sexual abuse, removing a body from the scene of a crime, and possession of child pornography.

“You ended the life of a 14-year-old girl who had placed her trust in you”, they said.

They also ruled that because of the risk of re-offending, he will be moved to a psychiatric institution when his jail sentence is completed.

In addition, he was ordered to pay €40,000 in compensation to Esmee’s mother, €26,000 to her father, and €17,500 to her stepfather.

Controversially, the court rejected a prosecution application that Van de G be banned from teaching gymnastics for five years, saying his profession was unconnected to Esmee’s death.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court