... the Verona van de Leur scandal is getting a bit sordid.
A few days ago we told you that former Dutch star Verona van de Leur, who became an overnight sensation in 2002, then struggled a bit after a growth spurt, was having a very public row with her parents. Among other things, she was accusing her parents of having used up all her money and trying to make life difficult for her and her boyfriend Robbie, who is much older than herself and has a criminal record. According to Verona, her parents spent thousands of euros that she had either won or been given by her sponsor, then hacked her computer, read her private correspondence, deleted 10 years' worth of photos and videos, threw away many of her belongings, and poisoned everyone against her and her boyfriend. It was a nasty story, but she seemed truthful enough telling it.
Verona during the 2008 European Championships, when things got a little too much for her. She retired soon afterwards. (Photo: Robin Utrecht/ANP)
Anyhow, the day we posted that report, Verona's father posted the following statement on a website, in a comment to an article about Verona's allegations. We're going to quote the entire thing.
"The Rotten Life of Verona van de Leur"
The Real Story!
The bad stuff began when Robbie R. (born 1969) entered our daughter's life [according to Verona, this happened about a year ago]. Fact is, Robbie R. is a criminal with a history of violence and weapon abuse. Fact is, he has threatened us. Fact is, he will have to appear before a Court of Justice for these deeds. Fact is, our front door has been kicked in and two windows at the front of our house have been smashed. Fact is, the same thing happened at the house of Verona's coach. Fact is, this man has been convicted of violence and has done time in prison. Fact is, the police are aware of this. Fact is, she has been abused. Fact is, this is not the first time he has abused someone. Fact is, this man seems a very intimidating guy to have for a "son-in-law." Fact is that his intimidation and threats got so bad that we felt obliged and were adviced to limit access to our house, for our own safety and Verona's sister's.
Verona's father went on to say:
Verona has fallen into the hands of someone who only wants money, at the expense of our daughter. She is being controlled by him and is being kept from her loved ones by him, so that she can't contact her friends in the gymnastics world. The veronavandeleur.nl website has been taken off line because of threats. Her accountant has been threatened too. As a top-level gymnast, you earn next to nothing in Holland. [We assume he's saying this to demonstrate that Verona HAD no money to steal.] We hope our daughter Verona will come to her senses and leave this criminal. Verona is not the only one leading a rotten life; we, her parents and sister, are also having a rotten time of it! And of course the door will always be open for Verona [if she wants to come back].
Which got him an equally public response from Verona, clearly written in great haste...
Anyone can present "facts" on line like my father has done, but I have evidence! My father has cameras in his house, "for safety reasons." If my boyfriend Robbie had really smashed any windows and kicked in the door, my father would have it all on tape. Robbie was arrested because my father filed an intimidation complaint. Robbie was really angry when he heard that my father had emptied my laptop, thrown away the presents Robbie had given me, and locked me out again when I came to pick up my things. He was so angry that he went to their house with a baseball bat. He just wanted to get my stuff back for me. He was sick of my parents doing things like that to their own child, but he left without doing anything (as the videos will prove). Robbie told his story at the police office, after which even the police realized that my father only wanted to have my boyfriend locked up so that he could say, "You see? He's a bad man!" The police let him go straight away because there was no evidence whatsoever that he'd done anything. No doors were kicked in anywhere. If any windows were smashed at my parents' house, there might have been other reasons for that. At any rate, Robbie wasn't involved in that. Robbie actually said, "First call the police and ask them what they can do to help you to get your things back," and he always waited for me around the corner when I went there, not coming to the house with me, as he didn't want to look provocative. He knew my parents would call the police if he showed up. But they never let me in, not even when I was alone or showed up with the police, as I did a few times. This is all known to the police; they have it all on file.
Verona and Robbie (photo taken from Verona's website)
My father is simply trying EVERYTHING to get me to leave my boyfriend, because my family doesn't approve of him. When I told them I wanted to stay with my boyfriend, they told me, "It's either us, your family, or your boyfriend." I told them I couldn't choose. So now they've made my choice for me, by changing the locks, refusing to answer the phone when I call, and not opening the door when I show up. I asked my father to show me my entire bookkeeping, but he refused to give it to me. So Robbie called the accountant and asked him very politely [that is to say, not in an intimidating manner, as Verona's father claims] if he could have a look at the bookkeeping. The accountant was kind enough to send it to us. But the accountant didn't have all the files (my father had some at home). So we started digging in what the accountant did send me, and we have a lot of evidence, but even so my Dad denies everything. If the bookkeeping had been in order, my Dad would have given me all the files straight away and explained them to me. But he only says, "I haven't got those files anymore," which sounds fishy to me. Why would anyone act like that if he hadn't done anything wrong? My father is trying to hide behind my boyfriend's past so as not to have to deal with this.
A few more "facts" (which I can prove) about my father. He hacked my Hotmail account, read my MSN chats with Robbie [supposedly to find incriminating material on Robbie], and forwarded them to me. When I asked him how he'd gotten hold of them, he said, "They were blown in by the wind." He has deleted a whole lot of things from my laptop (photos and videos of the last 10 years: Gymnastics stuff, family photos, absolutely EVERYTHING). He has also erased my external hard drive, which contained backups of the photos I had at home. They've thrown away presents, clothes, and shoes my boyfriend had given to me, because "they couldn't bear to look at them anymore." But they wouldn't let me come and pick them up; instead they changed the locks. My father says the door is always open for me, but it's not! When I show up at their house, they'll simply sit on the couch, shaking their heads - "No, we're not letting you in." They had my things moved from Elst [where her coach, with whom she used to live, lives] to Waddinxveen [where her parents live] without even telling me, even though I was planning to move them myself 3 days later. Then they sent me the removal firm's bill: €800! They changed the locks and sent me the bill: €200. As if I'd asked them to do that!
(photo taken from Verona's website)
My boyfriend has nothing to do with the money matter. All that money disappeared before I met him. In 2001, 2002, and 2003, I won prize money, thousands of euros' worth of prize money. In addition, I had a sponsor, who gave me quite a bit of money [in the Revu interview published last week, Verona stated her sponsor gave her "several tens of thousands of euros per year"]. But at the end of the year I was always told we'd run out of money.
That I have a boyfriend who is much older than me is my business. I knew about his shady past before my Dad told me about it, but I didn't hold it against him. He freely admits [he has a shady past] and knows it will always be used against him. But I'm a grownup and I make my own choices. It's just that no one seems to respect those choices. He's not using me and he doesn't control me, as everyone seems to believe. When I first met Robbie, things weren't easy, but once we got to know each other, things began to improve, and now we're doing really well.
Many tens of thousands of euros have disappeared without my consent. There were days €1,000 disappeared while I was busy training, so it can't have been me. Apparently I gifted my parents €5,000 on several occasions. [In the Revu interview she mentions a €30,000 "gift" of which she wasn't aware.] I paid for their Internet even though I wasn't living with them, I paid their phone bills, their sunbed, computer monitors, dinners, etc. They had a ball with my cash card, which I myself have never touched (I don't even know the PIN code). And again, this is not just a "fact" somebody posted on a website. I can prove it.
I've been invited to make an appearance on Pauw & Witteman [Holland's most highly rated talkshow], and I'd like to go, if my father agrees to be there with me and tell his side of the story (with his evidence). So Dad, if you're reading this, let me know how you feel about it!
Of course my parents' life turned into a mess after Robbie entered my life, because now the truth has come out. Rather than admit they're guilty, they're hiding behind Robbie's past, in the hope that this will distract people from realizing that it was they, my parents, who used me all those years.
(photo taken from Verona's website)
I could list more complaints, but I'll stick to this for the time being, as the case will probably go to court later. If my father remains this stubborn.
Why wouldn't they give me my stuff when I'm at their door, almost begging for it? I just want my medals back, and my other things.
As to my website (veronavandeleur.nl), it wasn't taken off line because of "threats." That website was run by someone who paid for it and let me make my own entries. When I quit, we agreed to keep the site on line for 2 more months, until summer, for some final responses. When those 2 months were over, I rang the guy and asked him to take the site off line. I was told that he had agreed with my father to keep it on line for one more year. I wasn't consulted on the matter. But I wanted the site off line because I was well and truly done with gymnastics. There wouldn't be any new photos or updates, so why keep it? With a lot of effort I got the site off line. Within a month, there was another site on line (verona.turnt.nl), created by none other than my Dad! Without my consent! I asked him repeatedly to delete the site as I don't approve of some of the things he's posted, but he simply refused. So he can call it a threat for all I care, but if he wants a website, let him create his own site rather than one about me. If I want a site about me, I'll create one myself, and I'll keep the password. But right now, he's posting pictures etc. without my consent. So Dad, if you're reading this, this is another request that you remove my site from the Internet. If I want my own website, I'll get it myself, thank you very much.
Finally, I'd like to point out that it wasn't my choice not to contact anyone in the gymnastics world after my retirement, as my father claims. Rather he was the first to tell his story, and now no one will believe me when I try to tell my side of the story, and people are taking his side no matter what I say. My response? If that's the case, so be it.
I'm taking a break right now, but you'll see me or hear of me later doing something in connection with the greatest passion of my life: Gymnastics. Gymnastics will always be a special part of my life. Because despite everything, I'm very proud of everything I've achieved.
Some nasty allegations here. We can see why Verona's parents would be worried; we wouldn't be thrilled either if our daughter went out with a much older man with a criminal record. If it's true that Robbie has abused Verona (and Verona would seem to admit that - "When I first met Robbie, things weren't easy"), we can understand why Verona's parents would do their best to drive a wedge between them. We'd probably try and do the same thing ourselves. At the same time we feel that Verona may be right when she says that her parents are harping on Robbie's past to cover up the fact that they stole her money. They probably resent Robbie for helping their daughter to uncover the truth about that. Then again, they may be right when they imply that Robbie only made enquiries into Verona's financial situation because he was after her money himself. But then again, the love birds do look reasonably happy in the pictures. Is this a complicated situation or what?
Anyway, if Verona is telling the truth (she certainly made an honest impression in the TV interview she gave last week), her parents' actions can't be condoned. Using your child's money for your own ends without telling her is wrong. Lying about it is worse. Hacking your child's laptop, reading her private correspondence, and deleting 10 years' worth of photos and videos is simply horrible. And sending her the bill for locks intended to keep her out of the house is, well, ridiculous. If it's true.
Either way, the Van de Leur case is characterized by an awful lot of public mud-slinging. As much as we like reporting on scandals, we think the Van de Leurs should exercize some restraint and resolve this situation behind closed doors. We hope the joint appearance on the country's biggest talkshow which Verona suggested won't come to pass, even if it would make for spectacular TV. Private issues like this shouldn't be dealt with on national TV. They should be dealt with in private.
And Verona, honey? Next time you write a public refutal, you may want to take some time to structure it and have someone proofread it. Yours is a terribly disjointed story, and your grammar needs some work too. Don't let your indignation get the better of your professionalism, will you? Even if you have good reason to be indignant, which we think you may.
Undoubtedly to be continued.