French court jails 'dentist of horror' for eight years
A French court on Tuesday sentenced a Dutch dentist to eight years in jail for deliberately mangling his patients' mouths in a case which saw him dubbed "the dentist of horror".
Jacobus van Nierop, 51, went on trial in March for ripping out healthy teeth and leaving dozens of patients with injuries including broken jaws, recurrent abscesses and septicaemia in the small central town of Chateau-Chinon.
He was found guilty of the charge of "mutilation" as well as premeditation violence and fraud over claims that he tried to rip off patients and insurance companies.
The court in the central town of Nevers also banned him from practising as a dentist and fined him 10,500 euros ($11,900).
"This is a brilliant victory because we weren't sure he would get eight years, even if that will never be enough for those who are handicapped for life," said Nicole Martin, president of a victims' association.
During the trial, prosecutor Lucile Jaillon-Bru said Van Nierop had carried out "useless and painful procedures" on about 100 patients with the aim of having them reimbursed by medical insurance schemes.
She said he took "pleasure at causing pain" to his patients.
Van Nierop, who called himself Mark, was hired by a head-hunter and was initially welcomed by locals into an area which was lacking in medical services.
Giving evidence in court, a neighbour recalled the arrival of a smiley, larger-than-life character, with a "big 4x4, a big dog, a big cigar".
- 'Gushing blood' -
But by 2011, the authorities were starting to question some of his accounting practices, and patients were starting to compare notes on his dentistry.
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.
The judgement recognised that 85 patients had been victims of violence, 45 of whom were "mutilated". A total of 61 people were found to be victims of fraud.
During the trial Van Nierop sat stony-faced, replying mostly only "no comment" to any questions.
He was not required to offer a plea under French law, but sought to deflect responsibility, saying he suffers from "psychological problems" including gender identity issues and suicidal tendencies.
The trial heard conflicting expert opinion about Van Nierop's psychological state.
One psychiatrist found he had "narcissistic tendencies" and was therefore incapable of making a moral judgement of his own actions.
But another found he was "perfectly aware of what he was doing".
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.
© 2016 AFP