A Dutchman dubbed by the media "the dentist of horror" went on trial Tuesday in central France, accused of having mutilated the mouths of more than 100 patients.
Jacobus van Nierop, who is 51, is alleged to have ripped out healthy teeth and to have left dozens of patients with broken jaws, abscesses and septicemia. He is being tried in Nevers, 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of Paris.
He is charged with mutilation, fraud, forgery and false billing. He faces a possible sentence of 10 years in prison and a 150,000-euro ($165,000) fine.
Some of his alleged victims say they are so traumatized they are nervous about seeing him again -- even though he's in the dock.
"I think that everybody feels anxious at the thought of seeing him, because it's been three years since we last saw him, and he's been on hunger strikes, etc. ... So we're not going to see the same person we saw in Chateau-Chinon," said Nicole Martin, one of van Nierop's accusers, referring to the town 40 miles away, where van Nierop practiced. "And now the question we ask ourselves is, is he going to be apathetic or will he be aggressive?"
'Today, we have no explanations'
The alleged horrors suffered by his patients are enough to make one avoid a dentist forever.
"When I arrived, he gave me six or seven shots in the palate, and then he pulled eight teeth out at once," said Sylviane Boulesteix. "I stayed three hours in the room, bleeding heavily."
Another former patient said she did not notice any improvement after van Nierop's treatments. Quite the reverse.
"After a few appointments, I noticed that instead of just one painful tooth, there were thirteen," said Geraldine Letot.
"He doesn't fix, he breaks. Today, out of 13 healthy teeth -- apart from one cavity -- two teeth have been removed. I need an implant and multiple crowns ... things I didn't need to start out with," she said.
Charles Joseph-Oudin, a lawyer for the alleged victims, said his clients are seeking an explanation for "how Mr. van Nierop could have acted in such a way for so long, how things could have become so bad."
"Today, we have no explanations," Joseph-Oudin said, "and understanding is the first step in the victims' healing process."
Though some may require a bit more healing than that.
"Even now I can't eat properly; I drool," Marie Jo Lemoine told French broadcaster BFM
, a CNN affiliate. "I just want him to admit he's responsible."
And -- the lawyer's comment aside -- Nicole Martin, another patient, said she thinks she knows the what the explanation is.
"To him we were just credit cards," Martin said. "His goal was to make money."