Almost a fortnight on from the targeted killing of journalist Peter R de Vries, there’s a growing belief in Dutch society that what it shows is the frightening degree to which the state – police and government – has been behind the curve in tackling organised crime.
De Vries died on Thursday, nine days after being shot in the head as he left a television studio in Amsterdam.
If the courts ultimately find that Dutch-Moroccan criminal, Ridhuan Taghi – described by police as “one of the world’s most dangerous men” – was behind last week’s killing, it will underline the fact that the danger he posed should have been taken more seriously a long time ago.
As the case stands this weekend, however, Taghi’s lawyer, Inez Weski, says any links between the two are “unsubstantiated”. De Telegraf newspaper, where De Vries began his career, challenges that view and says it has already established one persuasive link being looked at by police.
People lay flowers for murdered Dutch crime journalist Peter R de Vries at the back of the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat street in the centre of Amsterdam on July 15th. Photograph: Ramon van Flymen/ANP/AFP via Getty
It’s reported that Delano G (21), remanded in custody last Friday in connection with the De Vries shooting, is a cousin of Jaouad “Joey” W, the main suspect in a separate criminal case, known as the 26Koper trial, also linked to Taghi.
At the time of the attack, Peter De Vries (64) had been working as an adviser to Nabil B, the key prosecution witness in the Marengo trial, a highly complex web of 17 defendants charged in connection with six drugs-related murders from which one judge has already resigned.
In 2018, Nabil B’s brother, Reduan, was shot dead just days after the public prosecution department, in an extraordinary display of institutional naivete, published what it regarded as the positive news that Nabil B had decided to co-operate with the police.
Reduan B had nothing to do with the criminal underworld until the day he was assassinated. One television pundit commented at the time: the prosecution might as well have put targets on the backs of Nabil’s entire family.
It’s an unpleasant way to think about it, but perhaps because Reduan B was seen as an unimportant man who had worked in a warehouse, his death didn’t change anything. No politicians’ outrage for him.
Peter R de Vries addresses a press conference. File photograph: Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty
If there was a review of the case, it didn’t, it seems, lead to the conclusion that the killers were some of the country’s most ruthless hoodlums and that having used lethal force once, they might – in fact probably would – do so again.
Next to die was Nabil B’s lawyer, Derk Wiersum (44), in a shooting in 2019 that was strikingly similar to the attack on De Vries: he was shot at close range by a young hitman who was arrested soon afterwards.
The difference in the Wiersum case was that as a lawyer, a part-time judge and a member of an Amsterdam law practice, his killing provoked a storm of outrage.
Previously unfindable and untouchable, the alleged kingpin of the Marengo case, Ridhuan Taghi, was located in Dubai, detained and deported. He was named as the prime suspect in the Wiersum shooting.
Next to die was Peter R De Vries. Despite a history of brushes with the underworld, he had no personal protection because he believed it would hamper his work. Whether he should have been under police surveillance for his own safety is now under investigation.
Some say that he was used to an earlier generation of gangsters, the likes of Willem Holleeder (63), who masterminded the kidnapping of Freddy Heineken in 1983. Because they fed off the notoriety his television programmes generated, De Vries would never have expected them to come after him.
A new generation, however, never watches TV.
In a country almost numb to the debate about whether or not it’s “a narco state”, there were two particularly useful insights during the past shocking week.
On the same day, friends and supporters of De Vries laid 40,000 white roses around a statue of a roaring lion in central Amsterdam, with a message condemning “the structurally naïve attitude of the government towards serious crime”.
“Mark and Ferd”, the message ended, addressing Rutte and Grapperhaus directly, “Peter is fighting for his life. Please, name the real problem.”