Corrie van der Valk was heiress to the fortune of her family, which runs 98 hotels. She lived with her husband and six children in comfort in a large villa, until one day she disappeared without trace. Only when the Missing Persons Cell of the federal police in Belgium identified the remains was the mystery solved.
As we report elsewhere, the Cell is now looking to use the latest techniques used in the Van der Valk case to help identify a number of other unidentified remains they have discovered over the years.
Corrie van der Valk, then aged 58, was in the process of divorcing her husband Nico when she disappeared. As always in such cases, he started out as a prime suspect, particularly given her fortune. He was even kept in custody for three weeks before being released, still protesting his innocence. It was reported she had been expressing depressive and even suicidal thoughts. A diving expedition in Egypt was also mentioned, but investigators could find no trace of the woman.
Nico was officially ruled out as a suspect in 2003, and Corrie was declared officially dead in 2008, after the statutory seven-year period.
Then this summer, the Missing Persons Cell started investigating unnamed bodies, among the first of which was a body buried in a cemetery in Bois-le-Villers. The woman in the grave had thrown herself in front of a train at Lustin near Dinant on 7 January 2001. That happened to be the very day Corrie van der Valk was last seen alive by those who knew her.
She was buried anonymously, her body so disfigured no identification could be made. She also had no identification on her person, only French and Belgian cash, a train ticket and a badge from a Paris hotel. At the time, no-one made the link between the suicide and the woman who had gone missing the same day in the Netherlands – perhaps because her last known sighting at home is more than six hours by train from where she died. Investigators instead pursued the Paris lead, to no avail.
In the intervening years, the Missing Persons cell has compiled a database of the DNA of missing persons, with which they were able to compare the DNA from the anonymous grave.
Investigators are now trying to reconstruct her last day, including her strange journey from Gelderland to Paris, and from there to Brussels South station and a train for Dinant. They have been joined by Dutch colleagues. Meanwhile the family has been informed.
“We are deeply upset but also relieved that an end has now come to a long period of uncertainty,” daughter Sandra said in a statement.