'A father whose life is ruined': One year on from MH17, Hans de Borst speaks of losing daughter


Elsemiek de Borst was 17-years-old and wanted to be an architect. Instead, on July 17, 2014, she and her younger stepbrother, her mother and stepfather, were shot out of the sky while on board Malaysia Airlines flight 17.

One year on her father Hans, who lives near the Hague in the Netherlands, speaks of his only child like she has just left the room.

“Elsemiek was about to do her exams for school. She got high figures at the gymnasium [school],” he told Lateline.

“This year she would be passing her exams and she would like to go to the Technical University in Delft – famous internationally – because we went to an open day and there she thought, now I must do technical engineering.

“I said ‘first you have to pass your exams’ and she said, ‘yeah I will do that’. She was good at maths and physics, so she had all kinds of confidence to do this, to be an architect later on. It was her dream.”

mh17 anniversary
Elsemiek de Borst, 17. Image: ABC.

Hans de Borst remembers the day one year ago when he heard that flight MH17, carrying 298 people, had crashed.

“I arrived back from work a bit earlier to see a stage of the Tour de France that we enjoy here,” he said.

“My friend who lives two hours away called me and said look right away on the television.

“The floor was gone. I had to sit for a moment. Then I thought no … it can’t be true. There must be a few survivors and Elsemiek will be one of them.”

Hans de Borst with his daughter Elsemiek. Image: Facebook.

It quickly became clear there were no survivors and Mr de Borst said each day became more and more horrifying.

There were reports of looting at the crash site, investigators and officials were unable to access the wreckage and recover bodies because of the war raging around them between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels.


Read more: The parents of three children lost on MH17 release a statement.

“It made it a lot worse. It’s not only a bad movie, it’s also the worst scene of it,” Mr de Borst said.

In the days after the crash, Mr de Borst wrote an open letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin, the separatist leaders, and the Ukrainian government.

Open letter to Vladimir Putin

Thank you very much mister Putin, leaders of the separatists or the Ukraine government!

For murdering my loved and only child, Elsemiek de Borst!

She was 17 years old, 5th “gymnasium” student at the “Segbroek College” in Den Haag. And she was on her way to her holiday in Maleisie [Malaysia]; together with her little brother, her mom (my ex-wife) and her stepfather.

Elsemiek would have done her final school exams next year, together with her best friend Julia and Marina, she did so good in school! After that she wanted to go to the “Technical University Delft” to study engineering, she was looking forward to it! But suddenly she is not here anymore!

She has been shot out of the sky, in an unknown country, where there is a war going on!

Aforementioned misters, I hope you’re proud to have shot her, amongst other, young life and future. And that you will be able to look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow morning. I hope you will receive this message, maybe translated in English (what you as a intelligent gentleman could read just fine)

Thanks again!

Regards, Elsemiek’s father Hans de Borst from Monster, The Netherlands, whose life is ruined!!

PS mister Putin, I hope that your intense conversation with our prime-minster Rutte opened your eyes!

I know you are impressed by this and I would find it impressive if you took the initiative to guard the crash site with the Russian military, so the Dutch investigators can do their job.

Thanks in advance.

He blamed them for murdering his daughter, signing off: “Regards, Elsemiek’s father … whose life is ruined!!”

He said he still blames Mr Putin and the others for his daughter’s death.

“I hope some of the people who are responsible for it also read [the letter]. But … human life isn’t worth a lot in those regions,” he said.

Dutch investigators leading the investigation into the downing of MH17 said they were confident the passenger jet was shot down by a BUK missile fired from separatist-held eastern Ukraine.

The Joint Investigation Team, which includes members of the Australian Federal Police, is due to release its final report in October.

Related content: The daughters of MH17 victim: “She’ll never see us get married or have children.”

But Mr de Borst said while he thinks the investigation team is doing good work, it will not bring his daughter back.

“The other thing, the Hague is the city of justice you know that, and I’m living near the Hague, but I don’t think the people who initiated this will come to justice,” he said.

Elsemiek’s body was one of the first recovered, which was little comfort to her father at the time.

“The police came and told me because she was among the first bodies who were indentified and they told me that I’m fortunate, but I couldn’t understand why I’m fortunate that my daughter was dead,” he said.

“Later on I found out that some people were never found.”

Mr de Borst said he still has moments when he does not believe Elsemiek is dead.

He described it as hell, but he said he never wanted to forget.

“I want to talk about her. Every minute of my life,” he said.

This article was originally published by ABC News.

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