The 21-year-old EUR student Sarah Papenheim died on 12 December as a result of stab wounds. She was found by police after the suspect’s mother contacted the authorities. S. had called his mother and told her that he had stabbed a girl. Joël S. and Sarah were roommates. They shared an apartment in the De Snor complex on Kralingse Kerklaan. S. was arrested at the station in Eindhoven just after Sarah was found.

S. has undergone extensive examinations in recent months, by a psychologist and a psychiatrist among others. In court they stated that he has multiple mental disorders, a combination of autism, depression and a psychotic disorder. There is ‘serious and complex pathology’ that ‘very likely’ influenced S.’s behaviour during the attack. He had lost control of reality in that period. For that reason, the psychologist and psychiatrist ‘in any case’ advise prosecuting S. with diminished responsibility and to ensure long-term and intensive treatment for him.

Terrifying hallucinations

The suspect had terrifying hallucinations, it turned out during the session. He heard voices and saw a ‘snake man’ who told him to drink blood and hurt children. He also punished himself when he didn’t practise long enough on his double bass. He did that with cold showers and by beating himself with a hammer.

Because S. couldn’t remember anything about the crime itself. Various investigations were unable to determine the extent to which these disorders had influenced his behaviour during the crime. The psychologist and psychiatrist were therefore unwilling to make any statement about the chance of recurrence or the need for placement under a hospital order. According to the psychological and psychiatric examinations, the memory loss can be explained by an acute stress reaction, not by his disorders.


What exactly happened on the morning of December 12 in residential complex De Snor on Kralingse Kerklaan remains unclear due to the memory loss of S. Some witnesses heard stumbling and screaming. S. himself told the police that he had wanted to talk to Sarah. He intended to commit suicide and wanted to have one last word, because he thought she had treated him badly. A struggle apparently took place when he confronted her, with Sarah biting him. In an earlier police interview, S. also stated that he would already have had the knife with him before he spoke to Sarah, but he couldn’t remember whether that was actually the case. He had given that earlier statement under pressure from the police officers, S. claimed in court on Wednesday.

'Not dangerous'

Some of Sarah’s friends and acquaintances stated that Sarah was afraid of S. He apparently whispered in her ear that he wanted to kill three people. In the days before Sarah’s death, she and S. had contact with the local mental health team, after she reported S. as a ‘troubled person’. Sarah spoke to the local team at her door. On 10 December, the local ward team spoke to S. By then, it was estimated that he wasn’t dangerous. On the same day, however, Sarah called the ward team about S. saying that he wanted to become a serial killer.

In an emotional statement, Sarah’s mother spoke directly to S. Sarah would have been coming home to celebrate Christmas and make music, her Christmas presents had already been purchased: drumsticks signed by Phil Collins. It’s thanks to Sarah that she’s so mild, the mother said in court. Sarah would remind her that S. has mental problems. Yet she hopes that he will never be released again, never be able to make music or have children, because Sarah can no longer do that.

Sarah’s father was not present at the court, but had a letter read by his lawyer. In it he said that Sarah wanted to help people and consciously sought a roommate with mental problems, particularly after her brother’s suicide. Sarah’s father also indicated that he was worried about the situation with her roommate. But she reassured him: “Dad, he would never hurt me.”

S. himself read a letter at the end of the session. He said he hates what had happened. “I still can’t believe it was my hands that did it. Although I can’t remember anything, I regret it.”

The verdict is expected to be delivered in two weeks.