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French Court to Decide Fate of Alleged 'Dentist of Horror'

Mark van Nierop is charged with aggravated assault and fraud after he was accused of mutilating the mouths of more than 100 patients.
IMAGE: Jacobus Marinus 'Mark' van Nierop
Jacobus Marinus 'Mark' van Nierop in 2009.Christophe Masson / AP

A French court will rule Tuesday in the case of a Dutch dentist accused of painfully mutilating the mouths of dozens of patients.

Prosecutors in the central French prefecture of Nevers are seeking an eight-year prison term for Jacobus Marinus "Mark" van Nierop, 51, who's been dubbed the "dentist of horror" after about 120 of his former patients banded together to seek his prosecution.

Van Nierop went on trial last month on charges of aggravated assault and fraud after he was extradited from his native Netherlands.

Jacobus Marinus 'Mark' van Nierop in 2009.Christophe Masson / AP

The French news service Connexion reported that van Nierop fled France for Canada in 2013 as the courts closed in on him, but Canadian authorities extradited to the Netherlands, which duly returned him to France for trial.

Van Nierop's arrival in the Nevers town of Château-Chinon had been eagerly awaited after a headhunter recruited him to the previously dentist-free town in 2008.

In 2011, however, France's Order of Dental Surgeons charged him with engaging in illegal practices, Connexion and Agence France-Presse reported.

Prosecutor Lucile Jaillon-Bru told the court that van Nierop took "pleasure at causing pain." His practice, she said, was an elaborate mechanism to perform unnecessary — often painful — procedures to collect on the medical insurance.

Sylviane Boulesteix, 65, who saw van Nierop in March 2012 to have braces fitted, testified that van Nierop "gave me seven or eight injections and pulled out eight teeth in one go," AFP reported. "I was gushing blood for three days."

'I was gushing blood for three days.'

Nicole Martin, a retired teacher and leader of the group of 120 former patients, said she had healthy teeth ruined, teeth removed unnecessarily, and a crown implanted that was too small, according to Connexion. After one visit, van Nierop charged her 15 separate treatments, she said.

Under French law, van Nierop wasn't required to enter a plea. But a psychiatrist testified that van Nierop was psychologically compromised by "narcissistic tendencies" that made him incapable of making appropriate moral judgments.

French media reported that van Nierop was hired despite having been accused of numerous improprieties in the Netherlands, leading to an inquiry into how he could have been gotten his position without appropriate background checks.

The Order of Dental Surgeons said a European-wide "early warning system" that took effect in January would have stopped van Nierop. Under the continental agreement, dental regulators are now notified within three days about any dentist who is subject to disciplinary or criminal procedures.