Peter R. de Vries, Dutch reporter 'tirelessly' chasing justice

·3-min read
Dutch reporter Peter R. de Vries rose to prominence for reporting on numerous crime cases, including the kidnapping of beer millionaire Freddy Heineken

Peter R. de Vries, a Dutch journalist hailed as a "national hero" Wednesday after being shot in a brazen assassination attempt, is known as a fearless fighter for justice who rose to fame for his reporting on the 1980s kidnapping of beer millionaire Freddy Heineken.

The 64-year-old was fighting for his life in a Dutch hospital after being gunned down in broad daylight on Tuesday in a busy Amsterdam street as he left a television studio.

De Vries, who grew up in a religious family in Amstelveen just outside the Dutch capital, first made a name as an intrepid crime reporter for De Telegraaf tabloid, writing about Heineken's kidnapping which made headlines around the world.

"He managed to break into the circle of trust of two of the kidnappers, Cor van Hout and Willem Holleeder," the Belgian newspaper Nieuwsblad wrote.

In 1987 he wrote "The Kidnapping of Alfred Heineken", which describes the abduction from Van Hout's point of view.

Based on interviews with Van Hout and Holleeder, the book became a best-seller and one of the most prominent on shelves in homes in the Netherlands.

The 2015 movie "Kidnapping Freddy Heineken", starring Anthony Hopkins in the titular role, was based on his book.

In 1994, De Vries tracked down a third kidnapper Frans Meijer in Paraguay, where he was hiding and eventually extradited to the Netherlands in 2002.

- 'National hero' -

The celebrity journalist then moved into television, where he ran his own crime programme called "Peter R. de Vries, Crime Reporter".

His reporting led to the release of two brothers-in-law in 2002 who had been convicted for the brutal rape and murder of an air hostess in the central Dutch town of Putten. Police eventually arrested a new suspect in 2008 who was later sentenced to 15 years in jail.

De Vries shot to international renown in 2008 when he won an Emmy Award for his coverage of the disappearance of US citizen Natalee Holloway on the Caribbean island of Aruba.

The reporter had a special penchant for "cold-cases", including the indecent assault and murder of a young boy, Nicky Verstappen, in 1998.

He acted as the spokesman for the Verstappen family when a breakthrough was made in 2018, leading to a suspect being sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema praised the intrepid journalist on Tuesday evening.

"Peter R. de Vries is a national hero to all of us, a rare and brave journalist, tirelessly seeking justice, completely independent, and free-spirited," she told a press conference.

"He stands up for those in need, for the parents of a murdered child, for those who have been wrongly convicted."

- Target -

De Vries also often testified in court, including in a murder case against Heineken kidnapper Holleeder, accused of later murdering Van Hout in 2003, which some say may have put a target on the reporter's back.

During an especially heated sitting, Holleeder called De Vries a "filthy scammer".

And since last year De Vries has been acting as an advisor and confidante of Nabil. B, the main prosecution witness in the case against Ridouan Taghi, described as the Netherlands' most wanted criminal.

Prosecutors have described Taghi's organisation as a well-oiled killing machine.

De Vries himself tweeted in 2019 that he was informed by police and justice officials that he was on a hitlist, drawn up by Taghi.

Security around the case against Taghi is extra-tight after Nabil B's lawyer Derk Wiersum was gunned down in the street outside his house in 2019.

"Peter R. De Vries reports on cases, even if he himself is involved," the NRC newspaper wrote on Wednesday.

"He is a spokesman, journalist, opinion-former... all rolled into one."

"After years of reporting about the underworld, and being involved in court cases, he has now been shot," it added.

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