Dutch crime journalist Peter R. de Vries has died after being shot in Amsterdam on July 6 2021, he was 64 years old. Renowned for his dedication to unsolved crimes and support to the families of crime victims, he investigated more than 500 murder files and played a pivotal role in solving several cold cases.
Peter added the R. (short for Rudolf, his second name) to his name to distinguish himself. In a radio interview, he once said that his name was otherwise quite ordinary. He started his career as a 20-year-old trainee at De Telegraaf, the largest Dutch daily morning newspaper.
He was still a young journalist in 1983 when he followed the kidnapping of Freddy Heineken, the magnate of the famous beer brand. Heineken was eventually released and several kidnappers were caught and sent to jail, including Cor van Hout and top Dutch criminal Willem Holleeder. De Vries later befriended Van Hout, which saw him criticized. Van Hout was assassinated in 2003. Holleeder was released but is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of five murders and one count of manslaughter.
De Vries wrote two books about the investigation. One was later adapted into Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, a 2015 film starring Sir Anthony Hopkins. It was the start of a long and impressive career as a crime journalist. He worked for several newspapers and magazines before getting his own television programme, named after himself, which lasted for 17 years.
De Vries received worldwide attention for his investigative work around the disappearance of US citizen Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005, for which he won an International Emmy Award. De Vries famously revealed undercover footage in which a Dutch man, Joran van der Sloot, claims he was present when Holloway died and says he discarded her body. While Van der Sloot became a prime suspect, he was never convicted. Holloway’s body was never found.
Van der Sloot remains in custody today after he was convicted of killing a Peruvian woman, Stephany Flores Ramírez, in Lima in 2010. In recent years, he has been assisting the crown witness in the heavily guarded Marengo trial, one of the biggest Dutch crime cases. Seventeen suspects of murders or attempted murders between 2015 and 2019 are on trial. One of the victims was ex-convict-turned-crime blogger Martin Kok, who was killed in 2016. The crown witness’s brother was assassinated in 2018, followed by his lawyer, Derk Wiersum, in 2019.
Several lawyers quit the case over to safety concerns, but de Vries did not want any security. “If you have police on your left and right, they can still shoot you from the front,” he said in an interview. Journalist Eddy Van der Ley and others questioned de Vries over his decision, to little avail.
An avid cyclist and passionate football fan, he held a season ticket for Ajax and founded a sport management agency in 2014 with his son Royce and Ajax-icon Piet Keizer. He strongly disagreed with right-wing politicians such as Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet and campaigned for refugee rights. His support recently led to a group of unregistered refugees to be recognized as Dutch citizens after many years.
“I emailed all the Dutch media without a response, but he replied within five minutes,” said Yosef Tekeste-Yemane, one of the refugees, from Ethiopia. “He was indignant, wanted to know more. He put our story on the political agenda.” “Under a layer of toughness, he had a big heart,” said Van der Ley. “He was a dear man, friend, father and husband.” De Vries leaves behind his wife, daughter and son.