Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries, who reported on the violent underworld of the Netherlands, died on July 15, 2021 at age 64 after being shot July 6 in a brazen attack.

Peter Dejong/The Associated Press

Peter R. de Vries, a renowned Dutch journalist who fearlessly reported on the violent underworld of the Netherlands and campaigned to breathe new life into cold cases, has died at the age of 64 after being shot in a brazen attack last week, his family said Thursday.

“Peter fought to the end, but was unable to win the battle,” the family said in a statement sent to Dutch media.

While the motive for de Vries’ shooting remains unknown, the July 6 attack on an Amsterdam street had the hallmarks of the gangland hits taking place with increasing regularity in the Dutch underworld the journalist covered.

Story continues below advertisement

Two suspects have been detained. Dutch police said the suspected shooter is a 21-year-old Dutchman, and a 35-year-old Polish man living in the Netherlands is accused of driving the getaway car. They were arrested not long after de Vries was wounded.

Dutch crime reporter De Vries fighting for his life after shooting

De Vries rose rapidly from a young cub reporter to become the Netherlands’ best-known journalist. He was a pillar of support for families of slain or missing children, a campaigner against injustice and a thorn in the side of gangsters.

“Peter has lived by his conviction: `On bended knee is no way to be free,”' the family statement said. “We are unbelievably proud of him and at the same time inconsolable.”

De Vries had been fighting for his life in an Amsterdam hospital since the attack. The statement said he died surrounded by loved ones and requested privacy for de Vries’ family and partner “to process his death in peace.” Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

The shooting happened after de Vries made one of his regular appearances on a current affairs television show. He had recently been an adviser and confidant for a witness in the trial of the alleged leader and other members of a crime gang that police described as an “oiled killing machine.”.

The suspected gangland leader, Ridouan Taghi, was extradited to the Netherlands from Dubai in 2019. He remains jailed while standing trial along with 16 other suspects.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte led the tributes to de Vries in the Netherlands.

Story continues below advertisement

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

Dutch King Willem Alexander last week called the shooting of de Vries “an attack on journalism, the cornerstone of our constitutional state and therefore also an attack on the rule of law.”

The slaying also struck a chord elsewhere in Europe, where murders of reporters are rare. The killings of journalists in Slovakia and Malta in recent years have raised concerns about reporters’ safety in developed, democratic societies.

In a tweet, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was “deeply saddened by the news of Peter R. de Vries’ passing. I want to express my condolences to his family and loved ones.”

She added: “Investigative journalists are vital to our democracies. We must do everything we can to protect them.”

De Vries won an International Emmy in 2008 for a television show he made about the disappearance of U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway while she was on holiday in the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba in 2005.

Story continues below advertisement

In 2018, while acting as a spokesman for the family of an 11-year-old boy who was abused and killed in 1998, de Vries appealed for tips about the whereabouts of a suspect identified in a DNA probe.

“I can’t live with the idea that he won’t be arrested,” de Vries said when appealing for help at a televised press conference. “I won’t rest until it happens.”

The suspect was arrested a few weeks later in Spain and convicted last year in the death of the boy, Nicky Verstappen.

De Vries’ comment about the suspect in Nicky’s slaying summed up the tenacity that was a cornerstone of a career that saw him report on some of the Netherlands’ most notorious crimes, including the 1983 kidnapping of beer magnate Freddy Heineken.

Acting on a tip, de Vries tracked down one of the kidnappers in Paraguay in 1994.

He befriended another of the kidnappers, Cor van Hout, who was later gunned down in Amsterdam. Another of the kidnappers, Willem Holleeder, who was van Hout’s brother-in-law, was convicted in 2019 of inciting the killings of van Hout and four other people. Holleeder was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Story continues below advertisement

De Vries also was known for tenaciously campaigning to find the truth behind the 1994 slaying of a 23-year-old woman, Christel Ambrosius. Two men from the town where she was killed were convicted in 1995 and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, but de Vries refused to believe they were guilty.

They were acquitted in 2002, and in 2008, another man was convicted of Ambrosius’ killing.

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus issued a statement calling de Vries “a brave man who lived without compromise. He would not allow himself to be intimidated by criminals.”

Grapperhaus said he “tracked down injustice throughout his life. By doing so he made an enormous contribution to our democratic state. He was part of its foundation.”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies