My friend Fay from the Netherlands is the guest-author of this fantastic article. She is a young journalist on her way towards a shining future in her trade. Follow her at http://www.instagram.com/faystrng
Thank you, Fay, for contributing to our blog!
She was a prostitute with class. Murdered in 1959, someone is still trying to cover up their tracks.
It’s a bleek Monday, 1959. It’s dark outside. The only light is given by the few lanterns that stand lifelessly next to the road. A short, thin man walks towards the white house sitting between two larger buildings. It’s half past seven in the evening. After ringing the bell, he knocks on the front door. When nobody answers the door, he feels something is wrong. He drives off to fetch the personal guard of the woman living there. She had hired a guard, Gerard V., eight weeks earlier after the murder of prostitute called Blonde Marietje. Gerard and the man return, trying the bell again. The only sign of life is the faint sound of a crying dog behind the door. The men call the police. Two head-agents arrive. A neighbor lets the police men enter his house, and they walk towards the second floor. From there they jump onto the roof of the white house. They pry open the attic window and jump in.
There they find Blonde Dolly, lying in her bed, sheets pulled up to her chin. Her face is swollen and once the men pull back the sheets, they uncover even more. Blood had streamed from her nose, on her upper lip rests a bit of foam. On her neck they find faint stains. Her left arm has been placed in a creepy way, on her stomach; her hand and finger pointing towards her crotch. She’s wearing a beautiful and classy top, which was nothing like she would ever wear, according to friends and ‘customers.’
By the time paramedics arrive and carry her body outside, a crowd has gathered in front of the home. Gerard V has a talk with someone in the crowd, tells them Dolly had been murdered. Strangled, to be exact. His first mistake was made here; the police and medics had not yet confirmed Dolly had been murdered. In fact, they were assuming it to be a natural death.
How did this man know she was strangled before the medics did?
The question of why someone would choose this type of road in their life is often left unanswered. Dolly’s real name was Sebilla Johanna Niemans. When she was a baby, her mother had a mental breakdown and ended up in a psychiatric hospital called ‘Santpoort’. Dolly and her older brother were housed in a children’s home. After while she tried living with her father. He had remarried, and Sebilla couldn’t develop a good relationship with her new stepmom. She then became a sewer. When she lost all her money due to one of her suppliers robbing her, she had to find a new way to live. She was told: ‘’Je kan beter kerels naaien dan kleren.’’ It means: “Screwing guys earns more than sewing clothes”, which is ironic, because the dutch word for ‘having sex’ is the same word we use for ‘sewing.’
Journalist and cabaret performer Sjaak Bral investigated her murder for a year. ‘’As a young girl, seventeen years old, Dolly worked in an illegal brothel in Amsterdam during the Second World War. German soldiers weren’t allowed to visit the brothels, since it would affect the morale.’’ Men would stand in line for her. She was a cheap whore, and rumor was that it took her only ten minutes to ‘help’ each customer. Though this makes her seem like it, she wasn’t your typical whore. In fact, back then she was breaking a stigma. She was a whore, but she had class. She was a unique one, Dolly. In the weekends she would visit retirement homes and she would recite poems. She would let the son of her neighbors, a poor family, get groceries for her, and she would pay him generously . She was also very discrete: would the neighbor boy come to her house, she would make sure to close the curtains to let him know she was working. He could wait in the hall, and then Dolly would come out and leave with him. It was only after they left that customers would come out. The boy never saw any customers.
She had a few husbands. Her first husband was a famous violinist, Botto van den Bergh. He tried to change her into a ‘normal woman’. Dolly pretended not to do anything prostitution-related anymore, but couldn’t let go of the job so easily. In a police report, he describes Sebilla: ‘’She wasn’t pretty, she wasn’t ugly. I found her sad and lonely. She told me everything, including how much shit she was in. I wanted to save her from all these bad things.’’
Her second husband was Cor de Bruin. He wasn’t a rich man, he was a pretty normal guy. He was also the thin man, that came by that dark Monday evening of the discovery of Dolly’s body. Because he had a strong alibi, he was ruled out as a suspect.
Conspiracies and Cover-Ups
Her murder was never solved.
There are two main theories which we will take a look at.
The first one comes from Journalist Casper Postmaa. He did an extensive investigation into Dolly’s murder, and finds the only factually correct conclusion to be that her guard, Gerard V., got her drunk that night and strangled her. The drunk part is a fact: at around one AM that night, her and Gerard sat downstairs, having a drink that contained an alcohol percentage of 20%. Gerard first stated that he and Dolly only had three or four drinks, but that later turned into eight or ten. He was terribly in love with her. ‘’He wanted to sleep with her. She would ‘see’ thirty to fourty men a day, but she wouldn’t sleep with him. Fact is, this man was wrong. Extremely wrong,’’ Bral says with disgust. Gerard already had a history of crime when he met Dolly. From several break-ins to a sexual crime. Several people, including the daughter of Dolly’s neighbour, recall Dolly being threatened by Gerard when she wouldn’t sleep with him. He lived in a special controlled neighbourhood for ‘socially weak families.’ ‘’After the murder, Gerard went to prison several more times. They weren’t ‘light’ crimes. This will sketch the kind of way of life this man was used to: after the murder, the police attempted to investigate Gerard. When they woke him at night to take him into custody, this thirty-one year old man was in bed with his thirteen year old niece.’’
Testimonies given by some of V.’s family members put him in an even worse spot. While their intention was the exact opposite, the members gave away facts that pretty much prove he did it. The first important thing said: none of them knew what time Gerard arrived home, the night of Dolly’s murder. They explained that he would go to his own bedroom, so they couldn’t possibly know when he came home. Turns out however, that he didn’t return to his own room at all; he went to his niece’s room. And we all know what happened there. The niece, Lena V., lied about the times her uncle came home several times. She then mentioned that she wasn’t allowed to go upstairs to him once he did come home. She also stated that ‘he was acting very nervous’. According to her, he told her: ‘’They’ll suspect me, you’ll see! My fingerprints are all over the place. They’re gonna catch me. Remember: when the police comes, you know nothing.’’ Lena also told police that her uncle had several times described killing Dolly. In fact, he had even tried several times, putting morphine in her coffee. He’d taken the medicine from his own father, who died of cancer. Besides that, he told his sister Maria that he was worried about Dolly, because nobody was watching her during the day. Someone could ‘come into the home and hold her head underwater while she was in the bathtub, making it look like she just drowned. Nobody would care about it’.
The circumstances of the murder itself strenghten these allegations even more. Dolly’s dog, who had been in her house for a full weekend, had not relieved itself anywhere in the house. When the door to the house opened, the dog jumped out and peed, but if a dog had held in their needs for two days, it wouldn’t be able to run, only waddle slowly. Someone had taken the dog for a walk, while Dolly was laying in her bed, dead. Gerard had a key to the house. And then the fact that he knew she had been strangled while nobody else knew yet. After the murder, Dolly’s ex husband Cor bombarded the police with letters about Gerard being the killer. He was sure of it.
Both Sjaak Bral and Casper Postmaa paid a visit to said guard. ‘’I went to his house,’’ says Bral. ‘’At least, I made it to the front door. I confronted him with all of the allegations. He was shaken up by my coming, and told me he had already had so much trouble from the case, he was sick of it. He didn’t want to talk about it. Casper actually went inside when he visited, even gave Gerard the files and the proof he had on him. Said he knew he was the murderer. All to no avail.’’
Tying Up a Loose End
The second theory comes from writer Tomas Ross. ‘’Ross loves his conspiracies’’ says Bral, a good friend of the writer. ‘’But he has caught onto a conspiracy that isn’t even a conspiracy for the bigger part of it. What Casper’s theory about Gerard V. can’t explain, is how Dolly was so rich. She owned millions of dollars.’’
When Dolly was found, police found a big amount of cash hidden under the floor. Dolly also had many highly expensive clothing items just hanging next to her bed, and the earnings of that day were just lying on her nightstand. This both rules out a robbery, and illustrates how much Dolly loved her money. ‘’When she worked in that illegal brothel in Amsterdam during the war times, she would see a lot of highly respected dutch officials and important German army officers. Most of these dutch officials collaborated with the NSB’ers, the dutch nazi movement. After the war, many people who had collaborated with the nazis, paid a lot of money for people to keep quiet about it. What Tomas Ross thinks, is that Dolly accidentally ended up in these higher circles, met somebody, and started blackmailing this person. This would explain the amount of money she owned.’’
All these theories aside, the case itself was a terrible one to solve for police. The first problem was the amount of possible suspects; each one of her customers could have done it. Besides that, Dolly treated her customers differently than other prostitutes did. Most prostitutes don’t build up relationships with their clients, consider it dangerous. But Dolly made some men think she was in love with them, gave them a discount, or let them have her for free. When she would get bored, she would let them pay again. Every customer became a suspect. Besides, most of these men did not want it to be known they went to see a prostitute. Most of them had no wife or family, so finding an alibi was often not possible, if they stayed home alone. Fingerprints were found in her room, but DNA technology was not as developed yet. They couldn’t find out whose fingerprints it were. Another detail jumped out, when Sjaak Bral looked through the archives. ‘’The chief commissioner of the police wanted to be personally involved in the case. A head of police having that much interest in the case of a whore was unthinkable.’’ When Gerard V. was arrested, the investigators did not file a report on him, which means nobody knows what happened in the interrogation room that first time. The investigators working the case back then explained that it was impossible to solve a case in which everybody lies.
It’s hard to accept that we will never know what happened to Blonde Dolly exactly. When Bral was looking through the archives, Casper Postmaa had told him to look at some specific pictures. ‘’He’d told me several times: look at this one! And this one! So when I was in the archives, I asked him: where are they? He told me specifically in which file which photo was, but they were gone. As it turns out, between our investigations, an unknown person had gone into the archives and removed the photos.’’
Bral eventually included both theories in his show. Even sixty years after her murder, Dolly still sparks little bits of magic all around her. ‘’Somebody came to see the show and was so impressed, he bought the grave next to Dolly’s grave, so he could be close by her when he himself dies.’’
Dolly’s grave is in The Hague, at cemetery Westduin. ‘Here rests Sebilla Alida Johanna Niemans. Born in Amsterdam, september 27th, 1927. Passed away The Hague, november second, 1959’, her gravestone reads. People in the Hague won’t forget her name.
Some people are more connected to Dolly than others, though. Every year, around Christmas time and Dolly’s birthday, the gravestone no longer stands lonely and colorless. A few tulips lay by the stone, put there by a person who does not want to be found. Seems like her secret was carried with her into her grave, where it will rest until the end of times.
Napels Zien, by Casper Postmaa (book)