With countless firsts to his name and his own television program that was broadcast for seventeen years, crime reporter Peter R. de Vries (64) was the best-known crime journalist in the Netherlands for decades.
His years of investigation into the murder of 23-year-old Christel Ambrosius in the Puttense murder case revealed one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the Netherlands. He caused a great stir with his revelations about the secret relationship of Princess Mabel with the Amsterdam drug lord Klaas Bruinsma and kept more than 7 million people glued to the tube with a broadcast showing recordings of conversations with Joran van der Sloot about the disappearance of the American Natalee Holloway in Aruba.
De Vries was sometimes discredited because of his way of working. He maintained close contacts with criminals such as Klaas Bruinsma and Heineken kidnapper Cor van Hout. Based on conversations with the latter, he wrote a bestseller about the Heineken kidnapping from Van Hout’s point of view.
After the liquidation of Van Hout, De Vries placed an obituary. In it he called Van Hout “the most special man I have met”. He also spoke at his funeral. According to De Vries, his independence as a journalist has never been endangered by these contacts.
Watch a look back at De Vries’s life here:
De Vries was also in contact with another Heineken kidnapper, the Amsterdam criminal Willem Holleeder. He visited Holleeder and Van Hout several times during their detention in France in the mid-1980s, and he was the first journalist to speak to Holleeder after his release in 2012.
Not long after, a conflict arose between them about a Hollywood film adaptation of the Heineken kidnapping based on De Vries’ book. Holleeder did not want his name to be used in the film and therefore went to De Vries’ house late at night to threaten him. De Vries reported this and Holleeder was convicted in 2016 for that threat.
Revenge can greatly ease your personal suffering.
De Vries was in close contact with Willem Holleeder’s sisters: he helped them secretly record their conversations with their brother. Those two cases led to De Vries probably being put on Holleeder’s death list.
De Vries was not surprised by this. “I think he’s in a position where he has little to lose. Then revenge can really ease your personal suffering.”
De Vries started his career in 1978 as an apprentice journalist at De Telegraaf. It was during this period that he investigated his first murder case and developed his love for crime journalism. He was soon named a crime reporter by the newspaper.
His name in that field was definitely established in 1983 by his coverage of the kidnapping of beer magnate Alfred Heineken.
In 1987 he switched to the weekly magazine Aktueel, where he became editor-in-chief. Under his leadership, the magazine was transformed into a crime magazine. Four years later, together with Jaap Jongbloed, he made the first crime program on TV: Crime Time.
De Vries also set up his own press agency that provided crime reports and columns to, among others, Algemeen Dagblad (AD), Panorama and Crime Time. In addition to his book about the Heineken kidnapping, De Vries wrote several other true crime books and a book about his childhood.
In 1994 he had a big first by tracking down Heineken kidnapper Frans Meijer in Paraguay, at that time the most wanted criminal in the Netherlands for years.
A year later he got his own program, Peter R. de Vries, crime reporter, which he continued to make for seventeen years. In his program he was one of the first to use the hidden camera.
For example, in 2008 he managed to elicit startling statements from Joran van der Sloot about the disappearance of the American teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba. With this broadcast, De Vries attracted more than 7 million viewers. It was the most watched TV broadcast since the 2004 European Football Championship.
In 2003 he showed in his program an interview with the Chilean ex-bodyguard of Klaas Bruinsma (‘De Lange’), who said in it that the then girlfriend of Prince Friso, Mabel Wisse Smit, had been “the wife of that Tall” and that they were more than superficially friendly.
The government was seriously embarrassed by this and decided not to introduce a consent law when the couple wanted to get married. When Prince Friso married Wisse Smit, he lost his right to the throne.
Another major case in which De Vries was extensively involved was the Puttense murder case. In his program he devoted more than forty times to this. Wilco Viets and Herman Du Bois were convicted for the murder of 23-year-old flight attendant Christel Ambrosius.
Wrongly, De Vries thought, and he made efforts to reconsider the case, which happened in 2002. The men were eventually acquitted. In 2008, a new suspect was arrested, Ronald P., who was sentenced to 18 years.
De Vries was regarded as a louse in the skin of the judiciary, because with his program he often drew attention to miscarriages of justice and abuse of power in the judiciary.
With his crime program he won several national and international prizes. He received an Academy Award in the Netherlands for his role in solving a triple murder in Amsterdam that was about to expire, was Broadcaster of the Year and received an international Emmy Award for his report on the disappearance of Holloway.
In 2005, De Vries founded the Party for Justice, Decisiveness and Progress (PRDV) together with former police spokesman Klaas Wilting and former chairman of Liveable Netherlands Jan Nagel. Safety was one of the spearheads. The intention was to participate in the elections to the House of Representatives in 2007, but due to a lack of support for the PRDV, he decided against it.
You are always dealing with matters of life and death, that does not leave you untouched mentally.
In 2011, he announced he would quit the crime program because it was taking a huge toll on his life. “It is a job that often goes on 24/7. You are always dealing with matters of life and death, that does not leave you untouched mentally,” he said in de Volkskrant.
The last broadcast was a year later. He then went back to work as a freelance reporter. He was also a regular guest on talk shows and current affairs programs as a crime expert and presented a program about bullying on the Internet.
Together with his son and the now deceased former Ajax player Piet Keizer, he founded the PR Sportmanagement BV agency in 2014, which represents the interests of top athletes, and in particular professional football players. They acquired an official license as football agents from the KNVB/FIFA.
This year he showed himself from a completely different side, when he became a drag queen Emmi Beauty case made his appearance in the RTL program Make Up Your Mind, asking for the acceptance of drag culture.
Cold case cases
In recent years, De Vries was involved in various cold case cases, such as the Vaatstra case, the Posbank murder and the murder of Rose Sulaiman in Thailand. In 2018 he returned to TV with the program The Council Chamber at SBS6.
Last year, De Vries advised the parents of the murdered Nicky Verstappen in the lawsuit against Jos B. De Vries had supported them since 1998, when the eleven-year-old boy was found dead on Brunsummerheide. He recently launched the De Gouden Tip foundation. With this he hoped to collect 1 million euros through crowdfunding for the golden tip in the case of the student Tanja Groen, who disappeared in Maastricht in 1993.
Since last year, De Vries acted as the confidential counselor of Nabil B., key witness in the trial against the group around Ridouan Taghi. In that case, B.’s lawyer Derk Wiersum was shot dead. B.’s brother was also murdered.
According to De Vries, there was also information that Taghi, the main suspect in the Marengo trial, wanted to kill him. Later De Vries came with a letter that would be from Taghi, stating that the journalist had nothing to fear.
A crime reporter who comes up at really tense moments with ‘now it’s getting a bit too intense for me’ would be better off working at Libelle.
“I’m not scared, but Nabil’s brother and his former lawyer were murdered, so you don’t have to be hysterical to think that something could happen,” he recently said in an interview with Vrij Nederland. “That is part of the job. A crime reporter who comes up at really tense moments with ‘now it’s getting a little too intense for me’ would be better off working at Libelle.”
De Vries (64) was shot on Tuesday evening, July 6, when he left the studio of RTL Boulevard came. He was taken to hospital with serious injuries and died there.