In 1990, the beheaded body of a young woman was found in the Westersingel canal in Rotterdam. It was impossible to identify the body until 2008, when new DNA techniques uncovered that the victim was the American model Melissa Halstead. A joint investigation by the Rotterdam cold case unit and their colleagues in the United Kingdom led to John Sweeney, who had a tumultuous relationship with Halstead – as evidenced by the many lurid drawings he made during their time together. Director Jaap van Hoewijk observes the attempts by police, forensic labs and family and friends of the victim to reconstruct the past. Sweeney, who is sentenced to life in prison, gets a voice in the film as well, through a re-recorded voice-over based on a lengthy letter he sent Van Hoewijk. When Sweeney calls from prison not long after sending the letter, Van Hoewijk seizes the opportunity to question Sweeney himself.
Jaap van Hoewijk (Rotterdam 1963) has been making documentaries since 1995. His debut film was Procedure 769, about the witnesses of the first execution of 25 years in California. In 2001 he made Family Secret , Jaap finds out his father didn’t die in an accident, but commited suicide. In 2012 he made Kill Your Darling a feature documentary about the police investigation into the murder of photo model Melissa Halstead, whose headless and handless body was found in a canal in Rotterdam in 1990. Zijn film, Killing Time, was selected for many festivals, among which IDFA and DOKLeipzig. In 2015 he made the 2part documentary The Trials a collection of touching, comical and sometimes painful confrontations between citizens and the judge.