Several shots hit the reporter almost ten days ago in the middle of Amsterdam. The act shocked the country. Peter R. de Vries has long been in the crosshairs of organized crime – now he has died.
The worst fear has become a reality – for relatives, colleagues, the Netherlands: Nine days after the murder attack on him in Amsterdam, the Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries died of his serious injuries. He was 64 years old. ‘Peter fought to the end, but he couldn’t win the fight,’ said the family’s statement on Thursday. Colleagues and politicians reacted with dismay to the death of the well-known reporter.
The murder attack shocked the country deeply and was also received with horror internationally. Not much is known yet about the background to the crime. But everything points to a targeted organized crime attack.
‘You can’t live freely on your knees’
In the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat in Amsterdam, dozens of people spontaneously gathered on Thursday at the spot where the alleged perpetrator shot de Vries five times on July 6th. He had just come out of a TV studio. Hundreds of bouquets of flowers, letters and candles lie on the spot. The people are quiet, sad.
Many saw in Peter R. de Vries the fighter for justice, indomitable against crime. Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed deep dismay. Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus praised his importance for the rule of law. Peter R., as many called him briefly, had a life motto: ‘You can’t live freely on your knees.’ He had that tattooed on his leg too.
Don’t bend, don’t let go. He had been in the crosshairs of crime for years. But he had refused personal protection. ‘That is part of the occupational risk,’ he said.
His last role was probably his undoing. He was the confidante of the key witness Nabil B. in a large trial against a notorious drug gang. The crown witness’s brother and his defense lawyer had also been murdered.
For many, the attack was a signal of organized crime to everyone: We are not to be trifled with. The underworld struck where it suited it – in the capital’s entertainment district, between terraces and strollers. The television program on which de Vries appeared regularly was not aired for three days after serious threats. It is now being broadcast from a heavily guarded studio in the Mediapark in Hilversum.
Soon after the crime, the two alleged perpetrators were arrested on a motorway about 60 kilometers away. A 35-year-old Pole who lives in Maurik in the south-east of the country is said to have driven the getaway car. A 21-year-old Rotterdam native is said to have been the shooter.
The last hope for justice
For decades, De Vries was the country’s leading crime reporter and often spokesman for victims. For relatives, he was often the last hope of justice. He bit himself hard like a terrier into a case, not releasing it until it was loosened.
With 44 TV programs, he ensured the resumption of a notorious murder case – and in the end the acquittal of two innocent men. De Vries was the driving force behind the hunt for the alleged killer of 11-year-old boy Nicky Verstappen, arrested in 2018.
He also appeared regularly on TV talk shows. He never minced words and had even temporarily considered going into politics with his own party.
The reporter became internationally known in 1987 with his bestseller about the kidnapping of the brewer Freddy Heineken. In 2008 he won an Emmy Award for reporting on the Natalee Holloway case. The American disappeared in Aruba in 2005 and was believed to have been killed by a Dutchman. Most recently he had testified as an important witness against the serious criminal Willem-Holleeder, one of the Heineken kidnappers.
‘With Peter R. de Vries, journalism is losing a committed, courageous colleague who has shed light on criminal machinations and had to pay with his life for it,’ said the German Association of Journalists in response to his death. And EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen tweeted, dismayed: ‘Investigative journalists are vital for our democracies.’