Dutch investigative journalist Peter R De Vries was fighting for his life in an Amsterdam hospital on Wednesday, more than 24 hours after being shot in the head in an attack that King Willem-Alexander described as “an assault on journalism, the cornerstone of the rule of law”.
De Vries (64) was taken to Amsterdam university hospital where doctors described his condition as “critical”. His son Royce said the family’s “worst nightmare” had become a reality, and thanked the hospital and the public for their support.
Five shots were fired from close range at the journalist – who made his name for his coverage of the kidnapping of beer magnate Freddy Heineken in 1983 – as he left the studios of broadcaster RTL, where he was a frequent commentator, shortly after 7.30pm on Tuesday.
One local resident who heard the shots told how she held the crime reporter’s hand as they waited for help. She said there was a lot of blood on his face and he was unable to speak.
The shooting took place in the vicinity of the Leidseplein, a local hub of restaurants and bars, and police immediately began gathering forensic evidence, interviewing eyewitnesses and downloading video footage from surveillance cameras.
YouTube said it had removed “hundreds” of videos of the immediate aftermath of the attack and arrival of emergency services.
Amsterdam police chief Frank Pauw said two men had been arrested after a suspect car was stopped on the A4 motorway near Leidschendam on the outskirts of The Hague. He said officers believed one might be the gunman.
The two were described as a 21-year-old man living in Rotterdam and a 35-year-old Polish national living in Maurik, east of Rotterdam. They’re to appear in court on Friday.
A third suspect, an 18-year-old man arrested as the manhunt got under way in Amsterdam, was released without charge.
Recently, De Vries has been an “adviser” to Nabil B, a witness in the high-security trial of Ridouan Taghi, arrested in Dubai in 2019 in connection with a string of drugs-related killings – including the shooting dead of Nabil B’s lawyer, Derk Wiersum, the same year.
With the country on tenterhooks, acting prime minister Mark Rutte described the attack as “shocking and inconceivable”, while acting justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said it was “a black day” for freedom of the press.
Amsterdam’s mayor, Femke Halsema, condemned the “cowardly and brutal attack”. EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen described investigative journalism as “an asset for democracies”.
The National Union of Journalists said violence against journalists had to be taken more seriously by governments.