Two arrested over shooting of Dutch crime journalist

Peter R de Vries was said to be fighting for his life

Leo Cendrowicz
Wednesday 07 July 2021 14:08
<p>A man pays tribute to Dutch crime reporter Peter R de Vries in the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat in Amsterdam</p>

A man pays tribute to Dutch crime reporter Peter R de Vries in the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat in Amsterdam

Two suspects are due in court on Friday to face charges of attempted murder after the shooting of Dutch crime journalist Peter R de Vries in Amsterdam, an attack that has stunned the Netherlands.

Mr de Vries, 64, was in a critical condition after being shot in the head while leaving a television studio. Police say he was shot five times at close range and Amsterdam’s Mayor Femke Halsema said he was “fighting for his life.”

The two suspects were not named but were described as a 35-year-old Polish man living in Maurik, a town in theprovince of Gelderland, and a 21-year-old man from Rotterdam.

They were arrested in their silver Renault on the motorway leaving Amsterdam. Police searched homes in Tiel, Maurik and Rotterdam and uncovered IT equipment and ammunition. A third man has been released from custody and is not considered a suspect, police said.

King Willem-Alexander led the condemnations of the shooting, interrupting a state visit to Berlin to express his “deep shock”. He said: “Journalists must be able to do their important work freely and without being threatened.”

Prime minister Mark Rutte said that the gunning down of Mr De Vries was, “an attack on a brave journalist... and on free journalism which is so important for our society”.

Jan Struijs, chair of the Dutch police union, described it as, “an attack on our justice system and democracy”.

Even Geert Wilders, the far-right PVV party leader who recently described journalists as, “scum of the earth,” wrote on social media that the attack was “terrible”.

Mr De Vries is a celebrity in the Netherlands, where his crime investigations have gripped television viewers for decades. He had received multiple threats while covering the criminal underworld but despite these dangers, he refused security, saying that having guards around him made him uncomfortable.

Mr De Vries made his name in the 1980s reporting on the high-profile kidnapping of beer magnate Freddy Heineken but later fell out with the leader of the gang, Willem Holleeder, when he was involved in a 2015 film adaptation Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, starring Anthony Hopkins.

Mr Holleeder’s death threats against Mr De Vries earned him an extra three years’ jail in 2017, on top of his life sentence for his involvement in five murders.

Mr De Vries won an international Emmy Award in 2008 for his work investigating the disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway in 2005. His reporting included undercover footage of prime suspect Joran Van der Sloot apparently preparing to traffic Thai women for sex in Bangkok.

Dutch crime reporter Peter R de Vries is the latest victim of attacks on journalists

In 2019, Ridouan Taghi, on trial for murder and drug trafficking in the so-called “Mocro mafia” drugs war, made a public statement denying that he had threatened to have Mr De Vries killed for representing a key witness Nabil B – whose lawyer Derk Wiersum had just been gunned down on his doorstep in Amsterdam.

De Vries is the latest victim of a series of attacks in Europe in recent years targeting journalists investigating organised crime and corruption.

In 2016, Dutch crime blogger Martin Kok was murdered in Laren, close to Amsterdam. In 2017 investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb outside her home in Malta. The following year Slovakian journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova were murdered at their home in Bratislava.

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