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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee