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“It wasn’t an accident,” Tom and Kitty say about the death of their son Bram

Tom Freriks goes to his son Bram’s room every night around bedtime. To straighten the blanket and say good night to him, just like old times. In the morning Kitty Freriks has her moment. Shutters open, window open. Just like when Bram was still there.

The room has remained almost the same. A blue wall, a simple single bed, miniatures of Max Verstappen’s race car on a shelf. Only the clothes lying around are missing. When Tom and Kitty enter Bram’s bedroom, everything feels normal. In that place they can trick their brains for a moment.

On December 31, 2021, Bram Freriks died at the age of 12, after being hit by the metal shards of a blow hammer. The trial is this Friday.

Everyone in the Freriks family grieves in their own way, says Tom at their kitchen table in the Twente village of Haaksbergen. “You have a husband, a wife, a child.” Jesse, Bram’s younger brother, was very self-absorbed for weeks after it happened. He was just on his phone. “It is better now, because he has therapy twice a week.”

On the wall unit is Jesse’s memory jar with written notes, because Jesse was afraid he would forget everything about his brother. “He doesn’t want to talk about it, and if you talk about it too long, he’ll run upstairs, outside, or he’ll get very angry,” says Tom. “His whole certainty of what can happen is gone.” That is why there is now a whiteboard on the table, on which the three family members write what they are going to do that day.

“I think you’re trying to escape into your work so you don’t have to think about it,” Kitty tells Tom, who works at a major online printing company.

“I don’t want to get to that emotion all the time.”

Kitty: “Fortunately, your therapy has now also started.”

Tom: „In therapy it is said: you are constantly training for a very important competition. You are busy all the time.”

That ‘match’ is the lawsuit against Sebastiaan O., who is suspected of negligence, while operating the folding hammer. The verdict is expected two weeks later.

Kitty: “We hope to find out later what happened on New Year’s Eve. In court we will tell him how we have experienced lately.”

Tom: “That he has destroyed a lot of people with his stupid action.”

Kitty: “What we miss and will miss. He should know how we feel.”

Tom: “The therapist tells me to rest. He says that a top athlete also rests just before the competition. I can’t, I have to keep going. I haven’t been sitting still for a day.”

“Not even the first few months,” says Kitty.

“For example, I started scrubbing the floor, including all the joints. I tackled the garden.”

Butterfly in January

Kitty isn’t ready for therapy yet, says Tom. “You have had such a blow from the chemo and being sick.” More than a month after Bram died, she woke up from the pain in her chest. That turned out to be breast cancer. For the past year, she lived from treatment to treatment. Now she feels “especially a lot of emptiness”.

To curb the sadness, she seeks comfort in things she sees. The butterfly that kept fluttering around the house in January, it had to have something to do with Bram. The red balloon flew away when they went to the memorial site last week to celebrate Bram’s thirteenth birthday, which is no coincidence.”

On December 31, Bram went outside to play with two friends. They strolled through the streets of Haaksbergen, and viewed a scene they were not familiar with a few hundred meters from home. A man, the suspect, was working with an impressive instrument. The metal colossus stood against the sidewalk in front of his house.

He himself had earplugs in, but bystanders – including his children, neighbours, and Bram and his two friends – did not. Because of the fireworks ban, the man had checked whether this was allowed, and it was nowhere stated that it was prohibited. Carbide shooting, a tradition in Twente to cause an explosion in a milk churn, for example, was only allowed outside built-up areas.

To Tom and Kitty, it feels like the suspect was deliberately taking risks. “Anything just for the bang,” says Tom.

The folding hammer is a product that is often put together by enthusiasts. The suspect bought his copy from such a person. A piece of metal hits an underlying metal, and in between there is an explosive powder mixture in a container. In this case, the metal container was probably not propped up on the sides, causing it to burst and hit bystanders. The powder mixture is prohibited, and the amount used by the suspect is much higher than recommended by experts. The Public Prosecution Service is still investigating whether the seller of the folding hammer will also be prosecuted.

Brad wanted astronaut become Minister of Finance.
Photo Bram Patraeus

Bram was hit in the chest area, and his friend in his lower legs, which still bothers him. Little brother Jesse had already gone home. Kitty was just putting on her shoes to get Bram for lunch when Bram’s physically unharmed boyfriend and his mother rang the doorbell. “’Blood, lots and lots of blood,’ he said. I couldn’t tell if it was Bram or whoever. Around the corner I saw all kinds of blue flashing lights in the windows of houses.”

Bram actually wanted to stay indoors that New Year’s Eve in protest against the national fireworks ban, but the urge for adventure won out over the indignant feeling.

Tom only grows angrier as time passes since December 31. When he thinks about what happened, his muscles tense and he feels restlessness in his body.

“Don’t tell yourself there are only losers,” says Kitty.

“That’s really one trigger to get me on the closet yes.”

“And neither: it’s an accident.”

“I can not hear. I really can’t hear it. That’s what we hope from this lawsuit: that it becomes public what exactly he did. It’s not an accident. He has done so many stupid things, taken stupid steps.”

memorial site

Tom and Kitty want to change that ‘narrative’ of only losers with this interview, and also if they will use their right to speak in court. The couple also notices in their social environment that some people believe that an accident has occurred. “’I don’t understand why you make such a mess of it,’ someone from the village once said to me,” says Kitty. This, she thinks, means the lawsuit. “But we did not start that, the Public Prosecution Service does that.”

A memorial has been set up opposite the house of the suspect, because Bram died there. With flowers, a photo and notes. “It is sometimes said that it is difficult for the suspect. That stings. We look at Bram’s urn every day, here on the cupboard.”

In the first reports in regional media about Bram’s death, it was a lot about folding hammer that would be a “Twentse tradition”. They are disturbed by that. “We have lived in Twente all our lives, and had never heard of it. No one from our area.”

It is suspected that community service will be demanded by the public prosecutor on Friday, says lawyer Sébas Diekstra of the parents, following the victim interview with the public prosecutor. Tom and Kitty would find that hard to stomach. “We know he didn’t want Bram dead, but he was very negligent. He has been able to think time and time again: is it useful that I do it this way?”

Tom and Kitty wonder why the blow hammer isn’t banned. When they asked the prosecutor, they got no concrete answers, they were told that the powder is already banned. They find that an unsatisfactory answer.

Anger

The anger that Tom feels is also fueled by the way the suspect initially dealt with the great grief of the Freriks family, and his “lack of empathy,” says Kitty. According to them, this manifested itself in the first days after Bram’s death. There was a condolence and the suspect had asked if he could say goodbye. It was agreed through family investigators that he would come with his partner, but according to Tom and Kitty, he was in the living room with six adults, his partner, his friends and family. “That was very intimidating,” says Kitty. “He collapsed, didn’t look at us. It was like a show. It feels like he’s been hushing everything up ever since.”

Tom: “It undoubtedly has a lot of impact on him and his family, but he does not show that. That hurts.”

The suspect’s lawyer says that his client tried to make contact, but that the relatives did not feel the need at that time. According to Tom and Kitty, this is because they had to concentrate on Kitty’s treatment.

Bram had just started high school last year, and had gone from a kid to an adolescent. “He suddenly had a very strong opinion of his own,” says Tom. “Don’t take anything more.”

Tom: „He could calmly take the bike to go around alone. When a child leaves like this for the first time, your own child, it is very exciting. His world had grown. You can’t stop that. A child goes, and a child must go.”

Kitty: “But he also came to sit with you on the couch under the blanket, or get a hug.”

Bram wanted to try to pass the pre-university education and then go to university. He loved astronomy, and cherished the desire to become Minister of Finance. Kitty: “He often said: I will become an astronaut and then I will fly up. Don’t do it, I said, because then you will be gone for a long time.”

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