‘Did it from the heart’: Netherlands mourns after journalist dies

Peter R De Vries was shot several times after he finished recording a TV show at RTL Boulevard in Amsterdam.

Dutch crime reporter Peter R de Vries was critically wounded after being shot in broad daylight in Amsterdam last week [Remko de Waal/ANP via AFP]

The killing of famous Dutch crime journalist Peter R de Vries left the Netherlands in anger and disbelief on Thursday.

De Vries’s family announced his death after he was shot several times last week. He had just finished recording a television show at RTL Boulevard in Amsterdam and was left fighting for his life in hospital since.

“Peter fought to the end, but was unable to win the battle,” his relatives said in a statement. “Peter lived by the belief: ‘On bended knee is no way to be free.’ We’re inexpressibly proud of him and at the same time inconsolable.”

After the news broke about de Vries’s death, many people gathered at the place where the attack happened in Amsterdam to lay flowers, talk and seek consolation.

In an interview, RTL’s programme director Peter van der Vorst said the news came as a huge shock. “Against our better judgement, we were hoping for a miracle in the past week,” he said.

‘Afraid of nothing and no one’

The crime journalist was well known in the Netherlands for his passion for unsolved crimes and his unconditional support for the families of loved ones whose murder cases or disappearances were never unravelled.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the news touched him deeply.

“Peter R de Vries was always dedicated, tenacious, afraid of nothing and no one. Always seeking the truth and standing up for justice. And, therefore, it’s all the more dramatic that he himself has now become the victim of a great injustice.”

“We owe it to Peter R de Vries to ensure that justice takes its course. We may and will never tolerate this in the Netherlands. We will do everything we can to fight crime by all means possible. This cowardly act must not go unpunished.”

People bring flowers for murdered Dutch crime journalist Peter R de Vries at Lange Leidsedwarsstraat street in the centre of Amsterdam [Evert Elzinga/ANP via AFP]

During his life, Peter R de Vries investigated more than 500 murders and played a pivotal role in the solving of various cold cases.

He was known to be of huge support to the next of kin of people whose disappearances or murder cases had never been solved. Aside from being a crime journalist, he also fought for the release of people who he believed were imprisoned for crimes they never committed.

According to Jan Struijs, chairman of the Dutch Police Association, de Vries played an influential role in improving the work of the police. “It’s partly thanks to him that we now have an old case and cold case team in every police unit in the country,” he said.

‘Golden tip’

One of the cold cases de Vries was trying to solve was the disappearance of Tanja Groen, a student who has been missing since 1993.

Recently de Vries started a foundation with the aim to raise one million euros ($1.1m) to be used as a reward for the “golden tip” that led to answers about her disappearance.

Earlier this week, de Vries’ son Royce and daughter Kelly thanked everyone for their support during these tough times and said it was Peter’s dream to solve this case.

“Let’s try to make sure this dream becomes reality,” Royce said.

The crime journalist was well-known in the Netherlands for his passion for unsolved crimes [Ramon van Flymen/AFP]

On Wednesday, board member Simon Vuyk announced the million-euro goal had now been surpassed. “This means so much in the light of what happened to Peter,” he said.

De Vries was a regular talk-show guest who did not mince his words. With a certain vanity, distinctive nasal voice, and serious facial expression, he dared to challenge the country’s biggest criminals.

In an interview, fellow crime journalist Mick van Wely said: “Peter didn’t just go after the famous cases. He also worked on stories about the murder of a prostitute, for example. That characterises Peter. He did it from the heart.”

Concerns expressed

Thomas Bruning, general secretary of the Dutch union for journalists, NVJ, said de Vries was a “journalist and tireless fighter for justice. An example for many.”

The motive for the shooting remains unknown. So far, two suspects are in custody.

De Vries announced last year that he would be supporting the crown witness in the Marengo trial, one of the biggest and most heavily guarded Dutch crime cases in history, during which 17 suspects of murders or attempted murders are being tried.

Several colleagues, including van Wely, expressed their concerns to de Vries after he made the announcement, fearing for his safety.

On Thursday, the Dutch caretaker minister of justice, Ferd Grapperhaus, announced he commissioned an independent investigation into the security of de Vries.

Source: Al Jazeera