A riot broke out in a small Dutch town after more than 4,000 revellers descended on a party when an invitation posted on Facebook went viral.
The schoolgirl had only planned a quiet celebration with a small group of friends to celebrate her 16th birthday party.
When Merthe Weusthuis organised the gathering at her family home, she sent out invitations via the Facebook social networking site.
But she made one mistake - she forgot to mark the event as “private”.
As details began to circulate, a trickle of acceptances became a flood - and on Friday night the event turned into a large-scale disturbance as 5,000 gatecrashers clashed with riot police outside the Weusthuis family home, on a quite suburban street in a small Dutch town.
This was not how it was supposed to be.
Miss Weusthuis’s initial mistake, in using open-access settings on Facebook, meant the electronic invitation sent two weeks ago was eventually seen by 240,000 people, of whom 30,000 confirmed online that they planned to attend.
But that was not all. An unauthorised campaign was launched to promote the birthday party, reaching high levels of sophistication with the setting-up of a website, as well as a Twitter account which received hundreds of thousands of hits.
Over the following days the party become known as “Project X Haren” - inspired by the film “Project X”, released this year, in which three high school students throw a birthday party which spirals out of control.
Scenes from Project X and footage from dance festivals were used to produce film “trailers” for the party which were posted on the YouTube website.
At one stage during the build-up Miss Weusthuis, realising that things were getting out of hand, complained online that T-shirts with her face on were being produced and sold.
Her father, Coen Weusthuis, a management consultant, told her to remove her original Facebook invitation and call off the party, but the momentum proved unstoppable. Local media reported on the forthcoming event, while day-trippers began turning up to have their photograph taken outside the Weusthuis family home in the town of Haren (population 18,000), near Groningen in the north of The Netherlands.
Fearing the likely outcome, Dutch police were placed on high alert on Friday as thousands of teenagers, many drinking beer and spirits, began gathering around the house.
By the afternoon, hours before the party was due to start, Miss Weusthuis – who was pictured in a T-shirt with the slogan “We Gonna Party” shortly before her birthday – was seen being driven away from the house by her mother Frieda, a training consultant, to a safe retreat.
As darkness fell, tensions rose when it became apparent that there was no house party for the crowd to gatecrash. Violence broke out and 500 riot police were deployed, with officers equipped with helmets, shields and batons moving in to club some of the would-be partygoers in the attempt to clear them away from the property.
The disturbances spilled over into Haren’s town centre, where shops were vandalised and looted, journalists attacked, a car set on fire, other vehicles overturned and street signs and lampposts damaged. During the melee shop windows were smashed, fires started and supermarket trolleys turned into makeshift barricades.
Officers, who had travelled from surrounding towns and cities for the event, took more than five hours to disperse the crowd. They made 34 arrests, while six people were injured, two seriously.
Haren’s chief police superintendent Oscar Dros said yesterday: “My team had to confront aggression seldom seen in the Netherlands.”
Robert Bats, Haren’s mayor, said: “Scum ran amok in our town. An innocent invitation on Facebook for a party led to serious rioting, destruction, plundering, arson and injuries in the middle of Haren.”
He said that a core group of the rioters “were very violent and well-prepared, and deliberately sought confrontation with the police”.
The scenes of chaos dwarfed even the mayhem surrounding a number of recent 'Facebook parties’ in Britain, including one in April this year when more than 400 gatecrashers invaded the 16th birthday party of Bradley McAnulty at his family home in Poole, Dorset, causing extensive damage.