THE HAGUE, Netherlands
(AP) — Peter R. de Vries, a renowned Dutch
journalist who fearlessly reported on the violent underworld of the Netherlands and campaigned to bring cold cases back to life, died at the age of 64 after being shot in a brazen attack
last week, his family
“Peter fought until the bitter end, but was unable to win the battle
,” the family said in a statement released
to Dutch media
While the reason for De Vries' shooting
is unknown, the July 6 attack on an Amsterdam
street bore all the hallmarks of the gangland hits that the journalist covered in the Dutch underworld.
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 shortly after De Vries was injured.
De Vries rose quickly from a young cub reporter to become the most well-known journalist in the Netherlands; 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 said in a statement, adding, “We are unbelievably proud of him and inconsolable.”
De Vries had been fighting for his life in an Amsterdam hospital
since the attack, according to the statement, and he died surrounded by loved ones. The statement also requested privacy for De Vries' family and partner "to process his death
in peace." Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.
The shooting occurred after De Vries made one of his regular appearances on a current affairs television
show; he had recently served as an adviser and confidant for a witness
in the trial
of the alleged leader and other members of a crime
gang described by police as an "oiled killing machine."
Ridouan Taghi, the suspected gangland leader, was extradited to the Netherlands from Dubai in 2019. He is still imprisoned and on trial with 16 other suspects.
In the Netherlands, tributes to De Vries were led by caretaker Prime Minister
“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 has now become the victim of a great injustice.”
The shooting of De Vries, according to Dutch King Willem Alexander, was an “attack on journalism
, the cornerstone of our constitutional state, and thus an attack on the rule of law
The slaying also sparked outrage in Europe
, where murders of journalists
are uncommon, and where recent murders of journalists in Slovakia
and Malta have raised concerns about the safety of journalists in developed, democratic
“We may disagree on much in our media, but we must agree that journalists investigating potential abuses of power are not a threat to our democracies and societies,” European Commission President
Ursula von der Leyen told European Parliament
lawmakers last week.
De Vries won an International Emmy in 2008 for a television show he created about the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway, a teenager from the United States
, while on vacation on the Dutch Caribbean
island of Aruba.
De Vries appealed for tips about the whereabouts of a suspect identified in a DNA probe in 2018, while acting as a spokesman for the family of an 11-year-old boy who was abused and killed in 1998.
“I can't live with the thought that he won't be arrested,” De Vries said in a televised press conference, adding, "I won't rest until it happens."
The suspect was apprehended a few weeks later in Spain
and convicted of the boy's death, Nicky Verstappen, last year.
De Vries' remark about the suspect in Nicky's murder summed up the tenacity that was a cornerstone of a career that saw him report on some of the most notorious crimes in the Netherlands, including the kidnapping
of beer magnate Freddy Heineken in 1983.
In 1994, De Vries located one of the kidnappers in Paraguay after receiving a tip.
He befriended another of the kidnappers, Cor van Hout, who was later gunned down in Amsterdam, and another of the kidnappers, Willem Holleeder, who was van Hout's brother-in-law, was convicted in 2019 of inciting the murders of van Hout and four other people
, and was sentenced to life in prison.
De Vries was also known for his tenacious campaign to uncover the truth about the 1994 slaying of a 23-year-old woman, Christel Ambrosius; two men from the town where she was killed were convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison in 1995, but De Vries refused to believe they were guilty.
They were acquitted in 2002, and another man was found guilty of Ambrosius' murder in 2008.
De Vries was described as a "brave man who lived without compromise and would not be intimidated by criminals" by Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus in a statement.
According to Grapperhaus, he “tracked down injustice throughout his life, making an enormous contribution to our democratic state, which he helped to establish.”