On January 18 this year, Eric Klooster, a Dutchman in need of a heart operation, and his partner of three years, Renate Jörk, abandoned their rented Renault Clio near Budens. They have been missing ever since. The Resident spoke with Wim Nugteren, a very close friend of the couple, to find out more. He explained that Eric was a successful businessman who had owned a construction materials business for over 30 years in Holland. He sold his company shortly before he and his wife divorced and decided to move to Lagos, where he lived for about seven months of the year, travelling on his motorbike for the remainder. Renate was a housewife, separated from her husband and living in Augsburg, Germany. She holidayed in Lagos several times a year and, during one of these brief visits, met Eric and fell in love.
“I used to train with Eric at the gym regularly”, Wim commented, “he seemed happy and healthy, but he was a very private man and generally kept to himself.” A keen biker, who often travelled round Europe for months at a time, Eric was apparently a free spirit and rarely managed to catch up with his two daughters while on his travels. Despite this, his family are worried. “He was a kind man,” Wim explained, “but he should have spent more time with his family. Now he has disappeared and they don’t know if they will ever see him again.”
Renate, on the other hand, did make contact with her family back in Germany before her disappearance. She sent a letter to her son, daughter and estranged husband, which is how their disappearance came to light.“I received a phone call from Renate’s son,” Wim revealed. “He explained that he had received a very distressing letter from Renate, telling him that she wanted to ‘get away’ and ‘join Eric with his problems’. This hint at suicide distressed Renate’s son desperately.”
Wim immediately went round to the villa the couple had been renting in Lagos. “It was very distressing,” he remembers. “I was beside myself with worry, unsure of what I was going to find.” The villa seemed empty and lifeless and there was no response when Wim knocked on the door, so he telephoned the PSP in Lagos. An officer came round and they entered the villa together. According to Wim, it was immediately apparent that something was amiss. “Eric and Renate had packed up all their stuff into four suitcases which were simply left by the door. All that was missing were the couple’s passports.
“Everyone is now desperate,” Wim revealed. “Family members of both parties came to Lagos, where the couple were renting a villa, in search of any clues that may give away where they have gone, but this has been to no avail; Renate and Eric have covered their tracks.”
Officers from the GNR have been unable to help. “The PSP from Lagos and the GNR from Vila do Bispo are involved in the case, but as of yet have nothing to go on,” Wim told us. According to Wim, neither of the couple had shown any sign of unhappiness, nor behaved in any way that may have caused him to suspect a reason for their sudden and secret departure. “Even with hindsight I can’t look back and think of anything that was strange or unusual. I went to the gym to train as usual with Eric and that was the last I saw of him.”
The contents of the letters Renate sent to her family are really the only clues which anyone can go by and the suggestion that Eric had problems interested the families of both parties. Wim investigated this and believes that a week before Eric went missing, he went to his doctor who warned him that he urgently needed a heart operation, otherwise his life expectancy would shorten dramatically, resulting in his death within the year. It seems strange to Wim that anyone would choose to simply disappear when they needed such urgent medical treatment. However, this information made sense of the letters that the Jörk family received from Renate about Eric’s so-called ‘problems’. As far as his girlfriend was concerned, he was dying.
The Resident also contacted Sr Cândido from the hire car company that loaned the couple their Renault Clio. “I have known Renate for a few years now and I am just as distressed as everyone else about this,” he told us. Sr Cândido also told us that, on January 18, he received a letter from Renate pushed through the letterbox of his office, explaining that, due to unforeseen and distressing circumstances, she and Eric had left the car at a location near Budens. “She had hidden the keys in the boot,” he told us. “I was not angry; the car was safe, but I was and still am very concerned. They paid up front for the car for a 30-day period; but they only had it for two. I contacted the GNR and told them of the situation but, as far as I know, nothing has been discovered.”
Both Wim Nugteren and the families of Eric Klooster and Renate Jörk are concerned about their loved ones. Even though, at first glance, the case appears to be an open and shut missing persons enquiry, there are two questions that Wim and the families of both parties want answered. If the couple were intentionally running away, why didn’t they take all their belongings with them? And if this disappearance was planned, why did they hire a car for 30 days if they knew that they would be abandoning it after two days?
Wim just wants to know that his friends are OK. “They are not in any kind of trouble,” he explained. “They don’t owe anyone any money. This just does not make any sense. I just hope that someone can shed some light on this upsetting situation.”