A 32-year-old man died in a playground in Assen on Saturday after he was accused of sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl. Five men were arrested in connection with his death, but were later released. Various media sources identify the man as Martin, a deaf gardener. His colleagues do not believe the sex crime accusation.

According to the police, they received a report that the 32-year-old man sexually abused a 4-year-old girl at a playground in the Peelo district of Assen at around 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. The man was addressed by the girl’s father, who tried to stop him cycling away. There was a struggle between the two and both fell.

Four bystanders became involved and restrained the 32-year-old man while they waited for the police to arrive. When responding officers arrived at the scene, the man was dead. Attempts to resuscitate him were to no avail, the police said. The four bystanders were arrested. The girl’s father later turned himself in.

“The police investigation did not show that the five men assaulted the 32-year-old man from Assen”, the police said in a statement. The five suspects were therefore released from custody, but remain suspects in the case. The suspects are all from Assen and aged 27, 36, 38, 46 and 56 years. 

On Monday the Netherlands forensic institute NFI will do an autopsy on the man’s body to determine his cause of death. The investigation into the alleged sexual offense is also ongoing, the police said. “Due to the privacy of those involved, no further announcements will be made about this.”

People who worked with Martin are convinced that the accusations about him sexually abusing a child must be a misunderstanding, one colleague said to Dagblad van het Noorden. “We find it very unlikely. We read all the speculation in the press, but we do not recognize the profile sketched at all. We all know him very personally and never noticed anything like that. Martin was a honest, friendly and hardworking guy”, the colleague said. “Really a craftsman. He was not withdrawn and did not allow himself to be disadvantaged by his disability.”

The police will have to find out exactly what happened, the colleague said. He can only express his suspicions. “[Martin] was going to watch motorcycle races with a friend on Saturday. But he wasn’t home yet, so Martin had to wait. He is deaf, so cannot make calls. He can only message on his phone and maybe people on the playground thought that he was taking pictures”, the colleague said. Another possibility is that Martin unintentionally frightened a child and parents made the wrong assumption, he said. “He is big and due to his disability unintelligible and loud. It could be that a child was frightened.”