The Dutch crime reporter Peter R de Vries has died just over a week after he was shot in the head in central Amsterdam, local media have reported, citing a statement released by the veteran journalist’s family.
“Peter fought to the end but was unable to win the battle,” the statement said, according to RTL Niews. “He died surrounded by the people who love him. Peter lived by his conviction: ‘On bended knee is no way to be free.’.”
The statement continued: “We are proud of him beyond words, and at the same time inconsolable. His family, partner and loved ones want to process his death in peace and urge everyone to respect that.”
De Vries, a household name in the Netherlands, was shot five times – including at least once in the head – at about 7.45pm local time (1845 BST) on 6 July, while on his way to a car park on the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat after leaving a nearby TV studio. He was 64.
Two suspects were arrested on the A4 motorway soon after the shooting. A 35-year-old Pole identified as Maurik G is suspected of having driven the getaway car, police have said, while a 21-year-old Dutchman, Delano G, is the suspected shooter.
De Vries became famous for reporting the kidnapping of the millionaire brewer Freddy Heineken in 1983. He had his own TV show for 17 years, working with victims’ families, pursuing unsolved cases and exposing miscarriages of justice.
The journalist, who has in the past been given police protection after receiving death threats, had since last year acted as an adviser and confidant to the key prosecution witness against Ridouan Taghi, known as the Netherlands’ most wanted criminal.
Two years ago Derk Wiersum, the lawyer for the witness, known as Nabil B, was fatally gunned down in the street shortly after leaving his house in Amsterdam, in a killing the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, described as “incredibly disturbing”.
Dutch media have reported that the suspected killer of De Vries was a nephew of one of Taghi’s henchmen, while according to Polish media the second suspect is wanted by police in his home country for robbery and theft.
European leaders last week condemned the shooting, demanding his attackers face justice as the veteran Dutch crime reporter fought for his life in hospital. “This is a crime against journalism and an attack on our values of democracy and rule of law,” the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, tweeted.
The Dutch king, Willem-Alexander, and his wife, Máxima, expressed their “deep shock” at the attack. “Journalists must be able to do their important work freely and without being threatened,” the royal palace’s statement said.
Press freedom campaigners were equally forceful, with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists calling on Dutch authorities to investigate if De Vries was “targeted for his work” and saying journalists in the EU “must be able to investigate crime and corruption without fearing for their safety”.
The bloc has been rocked by several killings of investigative journalists and crime reporters in recent years.
In April, Giorgos Karaivaz, who covered crime stories on the private Star TV channel, was hit by at least six shots from a 9mm pistol fired by the passenger of a motorbike outside his home in Athens in what police called an execution-style killing.
Five years previously, the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in Malta in 2017, four years after Ján Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kušnírová, were discovered shot dead outside their home in Slovakia.
Details of De Vries’s funeral will be announced later, his family said in its statement. RTL Nederland, whose show RTL Boulevard the journalist was recording minutes before the shooting, described his death as “an indescribably great loss”.
It added that its thoughts were with “all who have been touched by his courage, humanity and determined fight for justice. Peter’s influence remains stronger than any act of hatred. We will continue to speak freely about abuses and injustices in society, as he has done all his life.”