Woman killing bag snatcher prosecuted

27th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

A woman who crushed a teenager to death with her car after he snatched her handbag in 2005 will be prosecuted.

27 July 2007

AMSTERDAM (AP) - Authorities said Friday they will prosecute a woman who crushed a teenager to death with her car after he snatched her handbag.

The incident assumed national importance partly because it happened in early 2005, at a time when ethnic tensions were inflamed. The 19-year-old came from a Moroccan family and the filmmaker Theo van Gogh had been murdered by a Muslim radical just two months earlier.

Many people were sympathetic to the driver, believing she was justified in chasing the thieves and that the death was an accident.

But many in Amsterdam's Moroccan community felt the incident reflected the disdain with which they are often treated, and criticised the media for callousness toward a young man who paid for a misconduct with his life.

The story was complicated by the youth's previous criminal behaviour, by the driver's record of reckless driving, and by the fact that she herself came from an immigrant family from the former Dutch colony of Suriname.

Prosecutors said they took more than two years to investigate "because of the seriousness of the case and the social interest."

In March, they reconstructed the incident at the scene.

The woman, identified as Germaine C., now 45, was sitting in her car when the teenager, identified as Ali el Bejjati, grabbed her handbag from the back seat and then hopped on the back of a scooter driven by a friend, prosecutors said Friday in their summary of the incident? the details of which are not in dispute.

The woman pursued the pair with her car in reverse and hit the scooter, pinning the thief against a tree. He died on the spot. The accomplice fled on foot.

The woman was arrested, interrogated and released several days later.

The national broadcaster, NOS news, reported at the time that the woman had told police she wanted only to "bump" the scooter. It also reported she had previously been cited for throwing her car into reverse on a freeway to complain to an officer who had targeted her with a radar gun.

El Bejjati had been convicted before of handbag theft and was awaiting trial on charges of armed robbery when he died.

"The court will have to decide if she is guilty and if so, of what," the prosecutors said in a statement.

"An array of charges will be put forward" at hearings this autumn, prosecutors said, ranging from vehicular homicide to manslaughter to reckless driving.

Friends and sympathisers of el Bejjati planned to hold a silent march to the place where he died on 21 January  2005, just blocks from where Van Gogh was murdered. But authorisation was denied by Mayor Job Cohen, who said it was "inappropriate" under the circumstances and he was concerned it might lead to a riot.

However, friends and family gathered at the spot without incident.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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