'Dentist of Horror' Jacobus van Nierop on trial in France

A courtroom sketch showing Jacobus van Nierop in the dock at the Nevers courthouse in central France (08 March 2016) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr van Nierop (pictured in court on Tuesday) was accused by one alleged victim of leaving "pieces of flesh hanging everywhere" after he removed a tooth

A Dutch man described by media as the "Dentist of Horror" has gone on trial in France accused of mutilating the mouths of more than 100 patients.

Jacobus van Nierop allegedly took out healthy teeth and caused horrific injuries to dozens of patients in a remote French town.

He faces assault and fraud charges and up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Mr van Nierop fled to Canada when suspicions arose and strongly fought against extradition to France in 2014.

Correspondents say that while he is not obliged to offer a plea under French law, Mr van Nierop has previously argued that he suffers from "psychological problems" including gender identity issues and suicidal thoughts.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Several of Mr van Nierop's alleged victims were in court on Tuesday
Image copyright AP
Image caption The prosecution say Mr van Nierop ripped out healthy teeth and left dozens of patients with broken jaws

The BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris says that Mr van Nierop was many people's worst nightmare.

Like many parts of rural France, the small town of Chateau-Chinon is badly served for medical provision, our correspondent adds.

Initially locals seemed delighted by the hard-working and smiley dentist, a larger-than-life character who witnesses said was rarely seen without his "big 4x4, a big dog and a big cigar".

But then the horror stories began. People said they had teeth ripped out for no reason - they were given heavy anaesthetic, then left with abscesses and infected gums.

Fillings were pulled out simply to be replaced by more expensive composite and some said their mouths bled for days.

Lawyer Charles-Joseph Oudin represents some of Mr Van Nierop's alleged victims - he said they wanted answers.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr van Nierop was initially welcomed by locals as a hard-working, larger-than-life and smiley dentist

"We first hope to have some explanations, to... understand how Mr Van Nierop has been able to behave in such a way for so long, how things became so serious," he said.

The story of alleged victim Sylviane Boulesteix, 65, is typical of the allegations made against the dentist.

She visited him in March 2012 to have braces fitted. "He gave me seven or eight injections, and pulled out eight teeth in one go. I was gushing blood for three days," she told the AFP news agency.

Another alleged male victim, 80, told AFP that the dentist left "pieces of flesh hanging everywhere" after removing a tooth.

By early 2013 a group of Mr van Nierop's alleged victims had grown to 120 members and in June of that year he was arrested. But the dentist fled France before the start of his trial the following December.

He was eventually located in a small town in the Canadian province of New Brunswick and was arrested under an international warrant.

Mr van Nierop - who has subsequently been detained in France for 18 months - is also accused of defrauding patients and insurance companies.

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