Dutch linesman death: Trial opens in Lelystad

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Media captionThe BBC's Anna Holligan reports from the Netherlands on the "dramatic impact" of the case on the nation

The trial of eight people accused of kicking a football linesman to death has begun in the Dutch city of Lelystad.

Richard Nieuwenhuizen, a 41-year-old father of three, was ambushed at the end of a junior club match on 2 December, and died a day later.

Seven teenagers and one of their fathers deny causing his death.

The prosecution argues that the attack led directly to his death, but the defence says it may not have done.

The question dominated the first day of the trial.

Experts from the Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI) believe Mr Nieuwenhuizen died because of a torn artery he sustained while being beaten and kicked in the head and body.

However, a former head pathologist at Britain's Scotland Yard, Christopher Milroy, a witness for the defence, told the court he could not rule out that Mr Nieuwenhuizen had a rare disease that can lead to the spontaneous rupture of veins.

The court also rejected a defence application to dismiss the trial on the basis that a photo of the attack published in a newspaper had affected witnesses' memories of the event.

'Difficult days'

The teenagers, including one 15-year-old, deny manslaughter.

Most of the accused have been in detention since their arrest last year.

"After a long time, your trial is finally beginning," judge Anja van Holten said on Wednesday.

"These will be difficult days for you, we will try to take that into account."

Mr Nieuwenhuizen had been officiating for Buitenboys club, in the town of Almere, when he was set upon. His own son had been playing in the match.

Four youths were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the killing, followed by another three teenagers and a 50-year-old man days later.

The death shocked the country of football enthusiasts.

Hundreds of mourners attended Mr Nieuwenhuizen's funeral, thousands of amateur fixtures were cancelled and football clubs around the country held a minute's silence.

It made the country question whether pushy parents and professional footballers could do more to prevent aggressive outbursts linked to the Netherlands' most popular game, says the BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague.

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