In response, dozens of people arrived in Bodegraven in spring 2021 to express their sympathy for the children they believed, without evidence, had been murdered, leaving flowers along the long path leading from the road to the local graveyard. “I lay these flowers in honor of Joost Knevel (hero of heroes!) and the other victims of satanic abuse,” read one message left at the children’s graves, which has since been removed. They signed off their message with the hashtag #StopVanDissel.
“I was really angry,” says Ida Bromberg, describing how she felt after these visitors left a teddy bear ornament on the grave of her father, who is buried in Bodegraven. “The idea that some of these lunatic people went to his grave and they did all these things, it really got to me.”
The Bodegraven conspiracy sent ripples across the country. After his home address was leaked by Kat’s website, Red Pill Journal, van Dissel was forced to employ round-the-clock security. In October 2021, a man was arrested on suspicion of plotting to assassinate the prime minister after posting to a Red Pill Journal–linked Telegram group, De Bataafse Republiek, which has since been taken down by Telegram.
By May, the municipality of Bodegraven had resorted to legal action to try to stem the tide of conspiracies that were engulfing the town. The mayor at the time, Christiaan van der Kamp, said he was worried the attention the town was receiving could descend into violence. “A man was beaten to death in Arnhem last year during a so-called ‘pedo hunt,’” he told the Dutch newspaper AD, adding that he didn’t want a repeat to happen in Bodegraven.
Kat was arrested in July 2021 in Northern Ireland, where he was living, and was finally extradited to the Netherlands last year. Knevel, who was based in Spain, was also extradited in August 2021 to face charges of inciting violence and was sentenced in June 2022 to 15 months in prison. Raatgever, who published a video of himself shouting “child abuser” at van Dissel as he cycled past, was also sentenced to 18 months in jail in June 2022. Bodegraven also launched legal action against the the platforms the men used. Police forced the closure of two Telegram channels with a total of 13,000 members. And in September 2022, the municipality also took Twitter to court, trying—and failing—to force the platform to remove remaining traces of the Bodegraven conspiracy.
In Bodegraven, local residents credit the municipality’s proactive response for the fact that life here has returned to normal. “For me, it’s over,” says Bromberg, adding that she no longer thinks about the incident now that the people responsible have been sentenced. Local residents in the town say the same. “It’s like it never happened,” says Manon von Agmond, pushing a pram down the high street. Another resident, Remco Zwaan, says the whole affair is now just a funny story he talks about with his friends. “I think everyone has moved on,” agrees Stefanie, who has lived in the town for two years but declines to share her surname.
The conspiracy cloud over Bodegraven might have dissipated, but not everyone is so sure this episode is over for the Netherlands. “QAnon is vague and broad and general,” says Daniël de Zeeuw, who refers to QAnon as a super-conspiracy myth that is particularly good at adapting to different countries. In the Netherlands, he describes QAnon as finding an affinity with new-age, alternative subcultures who might ordinarily post about food and wellness. “It is a bit like a meme,” he adds. “It’s a template people can use and adapt to their own liking or their own local context.”
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