Peter R De Vries, a Dutch investigative journalist shot in the head at close range in Amsterdam nine days ago, has died of his injuries in hospital.
De Vrie (64), one of the Netherlands’s best-known journalists, was acting as an adviser to the main prosecution witness in the country’s biggest ever gangland trial, when he was approached by a gunman as he left the studios of broadcaster RTL and shot five times.
Although the shooting was widely linked in the Dutch media to that court case, known as the Marengo trial, and its main suspect, alleged Dutch-Moroccan crime boss, Ridhuan Taghi, Mr Taghi’s lawyer insisted the day after the attack that any connection was “unsubstantiated”.
De Vries’s death was confirmed on Thursday afternoon in a statement from his family: “Peter fought till the end but wasn’t able to win this battle. He died surrounded by the people who loved him.”
The family said they were “immeasurably proud but also inconsolable”.
The veteran journalist, they added, had remained true to his motto, “on bended knee is no way to be free” – something he repeated frequently when asked why he chose such a dangerous brand of journalism.
If De Vries’ killing is ultimately linked to the Marengo trial then it is the third death associated with it since 2018.
De Vries was acting as an adviser to the trial’s main witness, Nabil B, whose lawyer was shot dead in 2019. Nabil B’s brother, who had no links to the criminal underworld, was also shot dead in 2018.
Reacting to news of the journalist’s death, acting prime minister Mark Rutte said: “We owe it to Peter R De Vries to make sure justice is served. We cannot and will not ever tolerate this in the Netherlands. This act of cowardice can’t go unpunished.”
The government may, however, be embarrassed by De Vries’s death. After the death of Nabil B’s lawyer, Derk Wiersum, in 2019, it emerged that none of the lawyers in the trial of 16 defendants had any personal protection, either for themselves or on their homes.
Just hours before De Vries died on Thursday, acting justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said there would be an investigation into whether the government should have provided him with security, even if against his wishes. De Vries had frequently said protection would make his work impossible.
RTL Netherlands, for whom he worked frequently, said it would “continue to speak freely about abuses and injustice in society”.
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she was “deeply saddened”.
Two suspects – one of them the alleged gunman – were remanded in custody last Friday in connection with the killing.