A missing four-year-old Belgian boy was found dead after allegedly being kidnapped by a babysitter, Dutch police have announced, days after his disappearance sparked a mammoth search operation spanning two countries.
The body of Dean Verberckmoes was discovered in the Netherlands on Neeltje Jans, an artificial island in Zeeland province, on Monday night.
He had been reported missing by his family after his babysitter failed to drop him off at his grandparents’ house on Thursday.
The police have confirmed that a 34-year-old Belgian man identified as Dave De K, has been arrested in connection to the incident. He was found in the Dutch town of Meerkerk, around 120km (75 miles) northeast of where the boy’s body was found.
Belgian prosecutors said he had previously been given a 10-year jail sentence for the abuse of a two-year-old boy leading to his death. His sentence ended in December 2018.
The man was last seen with the boy on Wednesday in the Belgian city of Sint Niklaas, near Antwerp.
Dean Verberckmoes’s mother, Elke, had previously made an appeal for her boy’s safe return.
She told Belgian TV that Dave De K had regularly looked after her the boy and his younger sister: “When Dave was baby-sitting for them they always said they’d mucked about and played games with him.”
A Dutch police statement said: “The police investigation pointed to a possible crime scene on Monday evening ... and a police helicopter also joined the search.”
“Around 10.00 pm (2100 GMT) the lifeless body of a child was found.”
The police added: “We thank everybody who helped and are sending condolences to his family.”
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