For the past three years citizens of Koewacht, a village straddling the Dutch-Belgian border, have been receiving anonymous hateful letters, but two weeks ago the perpetrator was caught.
Cristel was known to be a respectable woman, living a model life with her husband and dog in a detached house. However, behind those immaculate walls, AD says, the 51-year-old was busy writing letters to her neighbours signed with “a mother of three children” and “the group” in which she told the recipients that they were ugly, had ugly faces and big posteriors, and that she hoped their children wouldn’t grow up to be as ugly.
Don’t trash talk my children, a 32-year-old victim must have thought, and she contacted the neighbourhood cop who as it happens had also received hate mail from the same author. The police discovered about 15 people had received hurtful and sometimes threatening letters. Eventually the author was caught on 15 October and confessed immediately.
Last week during a meeting in the village’s only restaurant, ‘T Hoekske, the letter writer apologised to the victims. Her husband told people that his wife is undergoing treatment, although it’s not clear from the newspapers if it’s for her hateful tendencies.
Since none of the victims filed charges, the police won’t prosecute, much to the chagrin of the online peanut gallery who immediately branded her as a lunatic and a terrorist and clamoured for her arrest. This in turn led columnist Luuk Koelman to conclude that the woman’s biggest crime wasn’t writing hate mail, but doing it through the traditional post.
“On Internet forums it is custom to belittle everybody who disagrees with you. In real life the police may hunt you down when you tell a neighbour you think she is ugly. Online you can safely express your desire to see her dead or wracked with cancer. Nobody bats and eyelid at that.”