At care farm Aurora Borealis in Wedde, things took place for a long time that led to the arrest of two employees a week before Christmas 2022. Michel K. and Paul W. Program maker Alberto Stegeman paid attention to the abuses in the farm on Sunday evening in Undercover in the Netherlands. What stood out most in the second and final episode?
What was perhaps most striking in the broadcast of Undercover in the Netherlands on Sunday evening is not Stegeman’s confrontation with the two ‘bosses’ Michel K. and Paul W., but that the torments to which vulnerable residents were subjected simply appear in the daily reports of the care farm were ‘recorded’. But no body ever looked into that.
At the end of the broadcast, Stegeman says that the Health and Youth Care Inspectorate had already received reports about the Wedder care farm, but these did not lead to any action. Also, after the last visit in 2007 until December 2022, the institution has never been visited again and the daily reports have never been viewed.
Aurora Borealis was run by 35-year-old Michel K who was assisted by his father-in-law, Paul W (62). Stegeman takes action when two former employees report abuses about Wedde to him last year. His colleague Linda, an alias, works undercover in the care farm for five days after a period of preparation.
Multi-handicapped man dehydrated for punishment
In Sunday evening’s broadcast, according to Stegeman, thanks to his colleague Linda and her hidden camera, ‘sadistic’ scenes again come to light. For example, on the fifth day of her stay in Wedde, she notices that a multiple handicapped person is missing and is concerned about this.
Employees Paul and Ilse say that the ‘client is sitting outside’. Linda wants to know how long. But according to care workers Paul and Ilse, that doesn’t matter, because the resident is ‘timeless’ anyway. The multiple disabled person then appears to have been sitting outside on a bench for five hours instead of in his wheelchair. He received the punishment because he did not want to drink, Linda hears from care colleagues Paul and Ilse.
Undercover Linda makes a sandwich for the client. But Paul and Ilse won’t let him eat it until they see that he’s also drinking and isn’t going to scream. Paul and Ilse tease him a bit with the fact that they ‘eat an egg’. Linda does get the multi-handicapped person to drink, but Paul and Ilse don’t see it because they mainly have an eye for their telephone. To make matters worse, the resident also screams once. He is promptly put in a room, because it is ‘nice and quiet’, says Paul. He also says that the resident can survive by drinking the bath empty.
In passing, another method is explained to Linda on how to deal with residents who do not want to drink. ‘Under duress, straw in throat and nose closed, and yes, then they sometimes gag.’
Paul has another plan for the resident who sat outside as punishment and did not want to drink. “Put his feet in the salt. Yes, a salt water bath, that draws the moisture out of the head, he gets a headache there and then he will automatically drink something. Do you have Dead Sea salt? That is totally laughable,” says Paul.
‘Approach is much crazier here’
It is also special that care worker Ilse tells Linda that she also thinks that the approach in Wedde is ‘much crazier than she was used to’. “I don’t think about it, it is switching.” This is followed by images which, according to Stegeman, show ‘medieval torture’. For example, employees in Wedde tell Linda that they put residents under a very slowly dripping garden hose that hangs from a tree. “Yes, those drops then fall very slowly on the head.”
Exciting, but not very surprising, is how Stegeman’s meeting with Michel K. and Paul W. goes. That ‘confrontation’ happens on a Sunday morning when they go to the swimming pool in Veendam with residents. Paul won’t answer when the camera rolls. ,,I know who this gets away with,’ says Paul when Stegeman presents him with the abuses. “Why did residents sometimes not get food Paul?” According to Paul, that method was based on behavioral regulation. “I’m happy to explain that, but not in front of the camera.”
One of Wedder’s caretakers was a drug dealer
Stegeman wants to know from him whether putting a laundry basket on a resident’s head until he bleeds is sometimes also behavioral regulation. “We limit their behavior. Or would you rather spray these people flat, put a pill in them or separate them for 256 days of the year,” says Paul. “You are taking everything out of context. I even go on holiday with our residents.”
Stegeman confronts Michel K. with his past as a drug dealer. ,,I was an addict, not a dealer, at most I bought something for myself”, answers K. while Undercover in the Netherlands then shows images that he told Linda that he ‘earned well from his time as a dealer.’
The leader of the care farm, Michel K., later claims to Stegeman in a telephone conversation that he ‘apologised for that water dripping on a resident’s head.’ K. also says that his staff cannot tell Stegeman anything because they have all signed a confidentiality clause. And K. thinks he knows who clicked. That turns out to be a mistake, when Stegeman K. makes it clear that it is Linda. “Linda, oh yes?”, the care boss sounds surprised. Yes, says Stegeman and he has not signed anything. K. insists: ,,It is not allowed to broadcast on TV. We talk to each other. Hi!”
Evidence of harassment is in daily reports from the care farm
To the delight, because of the evidence, and to Stegeman’s surprise, they later discover the daily reports from Aurora Borealis in which the abuses are described ‘just’. “It has been noted that a resident must consciously skip his toilet moment up to five times. And that Kelly put a resident who screamed with his feet in the toilet and then she kept flushing it, making him scream again and again. That a resident gets a shirt pulled over his head and that they tie up sleeves. And that Paul put a sock in a resident’s mouth because he was making noise for a long time.”
Stegeman also presents the issues to three healthcare workers in Wedde. He first goes to Ilse, who deliberately dehydrated the multi-handicapped person. But Ilse doesn’t need an interview. “Make an appointment with my boss. I am not going into this.” She calls Michel and walks away. Kelly, who according to Stegeman mistreated and humiliated residents, is called. She is shocked that he has her number and says: ,, I don’t work there anymore. You have to be with the company’s lawyer.” Her tone irritates Stegeman: “Kelly, you now talk to me in the same way as you do to the residents.”
Kimberly, who threw an orange at the main resident, also refers to Michel and hangs up. “Unbelievable, all three of them are hiding,” says the Undercover journalist.
Stegeman must be with the arrest of the two
After Stegeman has given all the evidence to the police in Groningen, he wants to see with his own eyes how 62-year-old Paul W. and 35-year-old Michel K. are handcuffed. Early in the morning of December 19, he waits for that moment in Wedde. Then he sees Paul W. come out, “face to face with cops.” A little later he sees Michel K. being put in the detention bus and later Paul W. also joins. ,,Got you! And justice,” says Stegeman when the van drives away.