Dutch government steps up security after shooting of crime journalist

Attack on De Vries, who remains seriously ill, underlines challenge for state, says minister

 Dutch crime reporter Peter R De Vries was shot at close range minutes after he left the studios of broadcaster RTL in central Amsterdam on Tuesday evening. Photograph:  Remko De Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Dutch crime reporter Peter R De Vries was shot at close range minutes after he left the studios of broadcaster RTL in central Amsterdam on Tuesday evening. Photograph: Remko De Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

 

The Dutch government says it has stepped up surveillance and security in the wake of Tuesday’s shooting of high-profile crime journalist Peter R De Vries, conceding that “excessive violence” against lawyers, journalists, and holders of public office is “no longer a taboo”.

The unspecified new measures were revealed in an emergency briefing to MPs by acting justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus, who said they would remain in place during the investigation into the shooting – which had underlined the extreme challenges to “our democratic constitutional state”.

Mr De Vries (64) remains seriously ill in hospital after he was targeted by a gunman who fired five shots at close range minutes after he left the studios of broadcaster RTL in central Amsterdam on Tuesday evening. One round is known to have hit him in the head.

Two men are due to appear in court on Friday in connection with the attack on the veteran reporter, who has been involved in scores of high-profile investigations in the Netherlands since the early 1980s.

The men, who were arrested when a suspect car was identified on traffic cameras and stopped by police in Leidschendam, near The Hague, later on Tuesday, are expected to be remanded in custody.

A woman displays flowers past candles and messages in the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat, at the place where Peter R. de Vries was attacked on Tuesday night. Photograph: Evert Elzinga/ANP/AFP via Getty Images
A woman displays flowers past candles and messages in the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat, at the place where Peter R. de Vries was attacked on Tuesday night. Photograph: Evert Elzinga/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

They have been named locally as Delano G (21), a Dutch national from Rotterdam, and Kamil E (35), a Polish national from Maurik, east of Rotterdam. Some Dutch media have identified the former as allegedly the gunman and the latter as allegedly the getaway driver.

Given the business he was in, police accept that Mr De Vries made many violent enemies over the decades, not the least of whom was gangland boss Willem Holleeder (63), who masterminded the kidnapping of beer millionaire Freddy Heineken in 1983, and who is currently in jail.

Mr De Vries’s son, Royce, is a lawyer, and father and son, together with criminal lawyer Khalid Kasem, have run De Vries & Kasem, a law practice in Amsterdam since 2017. As a non-lawyer, Peter De Vries can act only as an adviser to clients.

Nabil B

It’s in that role that Mr De Vries has been acting recently for Nabil B, a witness in the trial of Ridouan Taghi (43), formerly the country’s most wanted criminal, who was extradited from Dubai in 2019 in connection with a string of drugs-related killings.

Those killings included the shooting dead of Nabil B’s lawyer, Derk Wiersum (44), the same year.

Given the similarities between the De Vries shooting and the shooting dead of Mr Wiersum, father of two and part-time judge, there has been much unguarded speculation in the Dutch media.

However, on Wednesday evening, Taghi’s lawyer, Inez Weski, criticised “unsubstantiated” speculation that her client was “the person responsible” for the attack – which she said she hoped would be investigated thoroughly and all avenues considered.

She pointed out, correctly, that in 2019 Mr De Vries claimed he was on a “death list” drawn up by Taghi – and Taghi had responded publicly by saying he knew nothing about any such list. That was equally true on this occasion, she said.