The word ‘fixer’ usually refers to local brokers who help a correspondent along the way. But in Medellin Colombia, the word “fixer” seems to mean something else. Someone who connects adopted children in search of their roots with family that is not theirs.
It is the image that lingers after the broadcast of Fraudsters tackled, the program by journalist Kees van der Spek, which was broadcast on RTL-5 on Tuesday evening. That KRO-NCRV-program without a trace admitted Monday that at least two people who participated in the program had been linked to the wrong biological family this way.
Van der Spek examines the Colombian fixer Edwin Vela in his broadcast. He has worked for Spoorloos since the early days of the program, which has attempted to connect Dutch adopted children with their biological parents for more than 650 episodes since the first broadcast in 1990. Until 2010, he was correspondent Edith Nieman’s fixer.
The revelation of Van der Spek came about through the gut feeling of Fiona Teggatz from Assen, who was also adopted from Colombia. She has a foundation that creates reunions between adopted Colombians and their families. “There is a large adopted Colombian community in the north of the Netherlands. If any of us join without a trace come, we all saw.”
When in 2005 it is her friend Barbara Quee’s turn and is told in the program that her mother would have been found, but would be in hiding and therefore unable to meet her, Teggatz’s doubts nag. How did the program know all this for sure? Until 2019 did without a trace not standard DNA testing. Matches were created based on documents. “I didn’t say anything at the time. It’s hard to say something like that based on a feeling.”
When Taggetz is in Colombia in 2017, her doubts return. “I met the Spoorloos correspondent there. I presented her with a number of cases, but her responses contained strange errors and inaccurate details. I kept getting different responses even when I later submitted cases via email.”
Once home, Teggatz rewatched all the episodes about Colombian children she knew. “I think you’re screwed,” Teggatz then told Quee. Another adopted child from Colombia was also found to be linked to the wrong parent after DNA testing. Van der Spek’s broadcast shows how he has now definitely found his mother after a DNA match.
If requests to contact the program in 2018 are unsuccessful, the two decide to go to Van der Spek. Knows a commercial channel. “We insisted we get more information from Spoorloos, but what followed was complete radio silence.”
Only on Friday, a few weeks after Spoorloos learned of the broadcast, did the program contact Quee. “It kept me up all night,” editor-in-chief Daphne Jonathans told me over the phone.
Teggatz: “Oh really, we thought when we heard that. What do you think it’s done to us all these years? According to the two, the phone conversation the image of a chaotic state. It turns out that three names of Quee’s alleged mother are circulating and the personal information about the ‘mother’ belongs to other people.
Teggatz fears that these cases are not the only ones and also calls matches outside Colombia unsafe. “The only thing that provides certainty is a DNA match. I encourage anyone who is now in doubt to do so.”
Presenter Derk Bolt does not want to answer NRC. “Completely against my habit, I now keep my mouth shut. It’s better for everyone.” KRO-NCRV says it will investigate sixteen cases involving the Colombian fixer. In two of those cases, the broadcaster says it has now confirmed the match using a DNA test, in another case, the broadcaster learned last July that a child has been linked to the wrong parent. “We have to reconsider the other twelve cases. If it is desired and possible, we will still offer those involved a DNA test .”
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper on 12 October 2022