Car attack on Dutch royal family leaves five dead

Queen Beatrix consoles a speechless nation after 'terrible tragedy'

Five people were killed in Holland after a speeding car crashed through barriers and ploughed into spectators attending a royal parade, in a terrifying attack believed to be targeted at the Dutch royal family.

A black Suzuki Swift, driven by a 38-year-old man, charged at high speed through police barriers and crowds of spectators, missed the royal open-top bus by just metres and crashed into the foot of a memorial column in Apeldoorn, a small town 90km south-east of Amsterdam.

Television footage showed the car, with its roof and bonnet already crumpled from smashing through the crowd, racing past the royal bus in bright sunshine and slamming into the column. Other film showed bodies being hurled into the air and members of the royal family hiding their faces in shock and dismay.

"I think that it has become clear that this happened with premeditation," said the Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

The driver – a shaven-haired Dutch man with no police record or known political affiliations – was badly hurt in the final crash but he survived. Pictures showed him apparently unconscious in the driver's seat with his face covered in blood.

"The man said that his action was aimed at the royal family," said prosecutor Ludo Goossens. "So far we have no indication that there is any link to terror (activities)."

The driver was "formally suspected of... an attack on members of the royal house and manslaughter or murder", the prosecutor added, and could face life in prison.

The Dutch media quoted neighbours as saying the man had been recently fired from his job and evicted from his home. Witnesses said that his car had been stopped and turned back earlier in the day by police. It remained unclear last night how the driver was able to breach security and charge through barriers, police lines and the crowds and almost reach the royal parade itself.

The fact that the attack happened in a small town on Queen's Day – the annual celebration of Queen Beatrix's birthday and of Dutchness itself – heightened the sense of shock and disbelief in the Netherlands. All other celebrations were immediately cancelled. Queen Beatrix, 71, made a national address in which, visibly upset, she said: "What began as a great day has ended in a terrible tragedy that has shocked us all deeply."

A Dutch journalist, Peter von de Vorst, said: "It was a really nice day. Then you hear a bang. Everyone looks up and you see people indeed flying through the air. [You think] this must be a joke or a strange prank. Then suddenly panic, and you realise that something really terrible has happened."

The Netherlands' reputation for tolerance and open-mindedness has been shaken since the assassination in 2002 of the populist politician, Pym Fortuyn. Arguments over immigration and the alleged threat to Dutch values from fundamentalist Islam have disturbed the once unruffled surface of public life.

All the same, an attack on or near to Queen Beatrix, a much-loved symbol of Dutch pride and unity, is likely to trigger an anguished flurry of national soul-searching. There were rumours earlier this week that Queen Beatrix might be preparing to abdicate as she approached her 71st birthday – the age at which her mother Queen Juliana stepped down.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas