Dutch mourn shopping mall shooting victims

Church services were held Sunday in a quiet suburb outside Amsterdam to mourn six people killed by a gunman at a crowded mall, as investigators puzzled over his motive and struggled to explain how he was able to obtain and legally own five firearms in the Netherlands.

The attacker, identified as 24-year-old Tristan van der Vlis, had minor run-ins with the police, including an illegal weapons possession charge in 2003 when he was 17 that was eventually dropped, District Attorney Kitty Nooy said.



"This is definitely part of our investigation," she said.



Van der Vlis opened fire in Alphen aan den Rijn with what witnesses described as a machine gun on one of the first pleasant Saturdays of spring, authorities said. In addition to the fatalities, he wounded 15 others, including an infant, before fatally shooting himself in the head at the Ridderhof mall, officials said.



Three of the wounded remained in critical condition. The infant was among two people slightly wounded, but was under observation at a hospital. Authorities refused to say whether any other children were killed or wounded in the attack and they haven't released a list with the identities of the victims, citing privacy reasons.



Police said they discovered a note from Van der Vlis in his car, threatening bombings at other malls. His mother found a suicide note at the home where he lived with his father near the mall. Neither gave any indication of why he wanted to hurt other people.



Alphen is about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Amsterdam. Church services closed to the media were being held at the Goede Herderkerk (Good Shepherd Church). A church closer to the mall is cordoned off in connection with the ongoing forensic investigation into the shooting.



"This hacks our society apart," Mayor Bas Eenhoorn said at a news conference. "I hope that people seek each other out to express their grief and their fears that are the result of this terrible incident."



A candlelight procession to the mall was planned for Sunday evening.



Van der Vlis's apartment building remained under police guard. Neighbors gave mixed comments about his character.



"He seemed to me to be a nice guy, he always greeted me nicely," said Veronique Troon. But she said that one time he asked her about her native Brazil, saying "'that seems like a very, very dangerous country, don't you think so?' I found it very weird."



An online condolence register has been signed 5,000 times.



"I always thought these terrible things only happen abroad, but now here too," wrote Thea Hilbrants of Groningen, Netherlands. "Terrible, incomprehensible. I wish much strength for everyone touched by this."



Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister have also expressed their shock and sympathy for victims.



Witnesses, including some interviewed by The Associated Press, said the man stalked the halls of the mall, shooting in an attack that lasted 10 minutes or more. Most witnesses have said that Van der Vlis was shooting with a machine gun, but the type of weapon has not been identified by authorities.



Witnesses said he later shot himself in the head with a revolver.



Nooy told reporters Saturday the first indications were that Van der Vlis had permits for five guns, including three that he carried during the rampage, according to a preliminary investigation.



Under Dutch law, owning revolvers and rifles is only allowed with a permit, and they must be kept locked up unless they are in use at a firing range or during hunting. Automatic firearms are legal only for use by the military and special police units — though an explanation of the law on the Justice Ministry website mentions there are other exemptions under some circumstances, for collectors for instance.



Automatic weapons are frequently found during drugs busts. Investigators have said Van der Vlis had no military background.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy