Dean Verberckmoes: Four-year-old Belgian boy who disappeared last week found dead in Netherlands

The body of a four-year-old Belgian boy who disappeared last week has been found in the Netherlands, Dutch police have announced.

Hours earlier, police had issued an alert that Dean Verberckmoes had been abducted.

He had been reported missing by his family after his babysitter failed to drop him off at his grandparents’ house.

Dutch police said they had detained a 34-year-old Belgian man.

They said the suspect, identified in the Netherlands as Dave De K, was arrested in the Dutch town of Meerkerk, around 120km north-east of where the boy’s body was found.

Belgian prosecutors said he had previously been given a 10-year jail sentence for abuse of a two-year-old boy leading to his death. His sentence ended in December 2018.

The man was last seen with the boy on Wednesday in the Belgian city of Sint Niklaas, near Antwerp.

Dean Verberckmoes’s mother, Elke, had made an appeal for her boy’s safe return. She told Belgian TV earlier that Dave de K had regularly looked after her two children: “When Dave was baby-sitting for them they always said they’d mucked about and played games with him.”

A mammoth search operation was launched in the Netherlands after Dutch officials were warned the pair could have crossed the border.

The boy’s body was discovered on Neeltje Jans, an artificial island in Zeeland province, late on Monday night.

A police statement said a police helicopter had taken part in the search, and investigators had found a “possible crime scene”. Around 22:00 local time officers found “the lifeless body of a child”, the statement said.

In a short message posted to Twitter, police confirmed that the missing toddler’s body had been found and thanked those involved in the search, as well as sending their “condolences” to the family.