De Pauw first spoke after his lawyers tried to refute the complaints of the civil parties one by one. Initially, he mainly focused on his relationship with Maaike Cafmeyer. He described how he got to know the actress, and how a close friendship developed between them. He also states that he was completely blown away when he learned that she was one of the ladies who had started talking about him to the prevention advisor of the VRT.
“I got to know Maaike in 2003, when we did large-scale auditions to cast unknown actors and actresses for the recordings of Het Gender De Pauw”, said De Pauw. “We clicked immediately, Maaike is a fantastic actress: comical, funny. We quickly realized with the crew that she was the one who would become the television wife of De Pauw. We worked together very intensively, but we also clicked as a person. We talked a lot, we got along very well.”
To Cafmeyer: “We were friends, weren’t we?”
According to De Pauw, there was a mutual appreciation. “There was an affection, an infatuation towards the end of the first series. But we knew it was an unbearable situation. We were both in a relationship and confessed to Frans and Inès what happened. We then took it off.” There was a second series and De Pauw and Cafmeyer continued to work together very often afterwards. “I have often asked her for collaborations, she has never refused. If I am a terrible stalker, then you can let your manager know that you don’t have time for that project,” said De Pauw.
He turned to Cafmeyer, who is sitting in the back of the courtroom. “I was completely blown away when I heard that Maaike suddenly said it was a one-way street. I don’t understand why you said that. I am sorry that she went anonymously to the prevention advisor and did not come to me, we were friends, weren’t we?” he concluded.
Apologies, in tears and in a cracking voice
After his lawyers had made their closing arguments, De Pauw was again given the floor. Then he went into more detail about the whole matter, and apologized to the civil parties. “I want to apologize to all the people I’ve hurt,” he began his speech in a cracking voice as he tried to hold back tears.
“I would like to apologize to all the people I have hurt, who found my behavior disturbing and who I put in a situation they didn’t want. I also dragged my wife, children and family into a story that was not their fault. I wanted people to feel good in my environment, didn’t want to be a boss but a friend. I’m not the person they’re making me pass for here. I didn’t intentionally hurt them. I didn’t want to disturb their peace, I think it’s terrible that this happened.”
“All the women who face me here are very fine ladies,” he continued. “They are strong, sensible, fascinating women. I just wish they liked me. I was also not a good husband and colored outside the lines, which is not okay. I paid too little attention to that.”
“Never got a chance for a chat”
De Pauw said he was genuinely sorry that he never got the chance to discuss this with the women. “I’ve always been open to a conversation but never got that chance. I didn’t always ‘read’ them correctly, I also had a wrong feeling. Sometimes the feelings were mutual, but regretting a relationship isn’t a crime, is it? I now hear that it was not always mutual, that it was annoying and inappropriate, but that my status prevented them from being clear with me.”
“I pushed the limits with humor, suddenly got attention when I became famous and wanted to be more than the fun TV character that everyone knew. I wanted them to like me for who I really am, so I forwarded book titles, songs, movies, and poems. I sincerely regret that I caused feelings of discomfort and sadness,” he concluded.
“I never used my power”
De Pauw was also briefly questioned by the court president. The television producer said he and his family were in therapy. “The sky is falling on your head. For three months we didn’t know who or what. That was a very difficult period,” he said. “I also went to a psychiatrist who helped me take the first blow and think carefully. Why I look for certain contacts with people, despite the fact that I actually have a very good wife.”
The court president wanted to know what De Pauw learned from this. There was a confusing answer. “That I don’t sit in my room at night writing scenarios to destabilize people. I liked those people. I never wanted to be a boss, I wanted to stay on the same level.” De Pauw said he realizes he’s been too impetuous. “It’s a new reality for me. It’s very strange that when you’re famous, people don’t dare to say anything. If people made it clear to me, then I stopped too.”
The judge also wanted to know whether De Pauw has an explanation for the fact that he “didn’t read people properly”. “We are now in therapy for that,” De Pauw responded. “I need to know where it comes from. A type of autism spectrum disorder has been identified. I don’t want to hide behind it, but that could mean you’re not reading certain messages properly.”
“Too bad they don’t accept my apology”
At the end of the second and final day of the trial, De Pauw was given one last chance to respond. “It’s been two long days,” he said. “A lot has been said, I think we can keep it up here. I regret that they did not accept my apologies – which were intrinsically present anyway. But I can understand their anger.”