One of the Netherlands’ best-known crime reporters is in critical condition in hospital after being repeatedly shot in what is believed to be a gangland hit.
Peter R. de Vries, known for his work in exposing the Dutch underworld, was shot in downtown Amsterdam around 7.30pm Tuesday while walking to his car following one of his regular appearances on a current affairs television show.
The 64-year-old was shot five or six times including once in the head and once in the chest, and was rushed to hospital by air ambulance where he is now fighting for life.
Three suspects have since been arrested – including two who were stopped in what police described as a getaway car near The Hague, 30 miles south of Amsterdam.
Officers have not given any details on the suspects, but say one of the two arrested in the car is believed to be the gunman.
Peter R. de Vries, one of the Netherlands’ best-known crime reporters, was shot in the chest and head in Amsterdam on Tuesday evening and is now fighting for life in hospital
The shooting happened in broad daylight on a street in central Amsterdam in front of dozens of witnesses, who held de Vries’ hand until an ambulance arrived (pictured)
The shooting comes amid the prosecution of alleged Mafia boss Ridouan Taghi – known as the Netherlands’ most-wanted man until his arrest in Dubai in 2019.
De Vries is heavily involved in the case, and last year had agreed to act as ‘confidential counselor’ to the state’s star witness – a man known only as Nabil B.
He stepped into the role despite the high-profile murder of several figures close to Nabil, including brother Reduan who was shot to death in Amsterdam in 2018, and lawyer Derk Wiersum who was killed in similar fashion in 2019.
Taghi is currently being held in maximum-security jail in the city of Vught, suspected of leading a cocaine-smuggling gang called the ‘Angels of Death’ and of being involved in a string of murders.
De Vries had agreed to be Nabil’s counselor in spring 2020 when two new lawyers – Peter Schouten and Onno de Jong – also joined the case, De Telegraaf reports.
But, unlike the lawyers, de Vries had refused to accept any offers of additional security to protect himself.
That is despite the fact that – months before he joined the case – de Vries had publicly spoken of suspicions that Taghi had placed him on a ‘hit list’.
Taghi subsequently wrote to de Vries assuring him that he had ‘nothing to fear’.
Speaking about Tuesday night’s shooting, a police spokesman said that ‘Peter R. de Vries was shot down in Lange Leidsedwarsstraat,’ referring to a street near one of the city’s largest public squares.
The shooting happened in broad daylight in front of dozens of witnesses, who said a slender, light-skinned man wearing a military-print tracksuit, black facemask and cap had walked up to him and opened fire.
Five or six shots were fired, hitting de Vries in the chest and head, before the gun fled on foot through two nearby streets.
Passersby rushed to help de Vries, calling medics and holding his hand until they arrived and took him to hospital.
Police have now cordoned off the street where the shooting took place, while heavily armed guards have been placed at the hospital where de Vries is battling for life.
Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in Parliament he was ‘deeply shocked’ by the attack.
‘We don’t know the circumstances, but whatever the circumstances this is unimaginable and terrible news,’ Hoekstra said.
The shooting comes amid the prosecution of Ridouan Taghi (pictured), an alleged Mafia boss, with de Vries acting as a ‘confidential counsellor’ to star state witness Nabil B
Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a press conference in The Hague the attack was ‘shocking and inconceivable’.
‘It’s an attack on a courageous journalist and by extension an attack on the freedom of the press, which is so essential for our democracy and rule of law,’ he said.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima wrote in a statement: ‘The report that journalist Peter R. De Vries was shot has shocked us deeply.
‘He and all those dear to him are in our thoughts.
They said journalists must be able to do their work without threat.
‘We feel connected to everyone who is committed to the free press in our constitutional state.’
De Vries, 64, is known for his fearless reporting on the Netherlands’ underworld.
He won an International Emmy Award in 2008 for a television show he made about the disappearance of U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway while she was on holiday in the Caribbean island of Aruba in 2005.
He had been a guest at Dutch broadcaster RTL Boulevard to talk about the case of Seif Ahmed, a hairdresser who was shot dead in his car in 2019.
The broadcaster said De Vries had just left its studio in downtown Amsterdam when he was was attacked and that one of the shots hit him in the head.
Amsterdam’s Parool newspaper published an image of the scene with several people gathered around a person lying on the ground.
An alleged shooter was arrested shortly afterward, newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reported, citing anonymous sources. Police said they could neither confirm nor deny that report but they expected to update the public later Tuesday evening.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte was expected to make a statement after meeting with leading law enforcement officials in the wake of the shooting, news agency ANP reported.
Police at the site of a shooting in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where De Vries was injured
Police officers stand guard to secure the area where the Dutch celebrity crime reporter was shot and seriously injured
‘This is what you’ve been hoping all along that doesn’t happen,’ said Thomas Bruning, general secretary of the Dutch Association of Journalists.
‘Of course it remains to be seen which activities of De Vries this is related to, but the attack took place in front of RTL Boulevard.
‘This hits journalism right in the face. Let’s hope and pray for his health.’
De Vries, 64, is a celebrity in the Netherlands, as both a frequent commentator on television crime programs and an expert crime reporter with sources in both law enforcement and the underworld.
De Vries is known in the Netherlands for investigative work on countless cases, notably following the 1983 kidnapping of beer magnate Freddy Heineken.
De Vries has been subjected to threats from the criminal underworld in the past in connection with several cases.
In 2013 Willem Holleeder, the Heineken kidnapper, was convicted of making threats against De Vries. Holleeder is currently serving a life sentence for his involvement in five murders.
In 2019 Ridouan Taghi, currently on trial for murder and drug trafficking, took the unusual step of making a public statement denying reports that he had threatened to have De Vries killed.
De Vries has been acting as a counselor, but not lawyer, to a state witness identified as Nabil B. testifying in the case against Taghi and his alleged associates.
Nabil B.’s previous lawyer was shot and killed on an Amsterdam street in September 2019.