Murders of Lawyer, Journalist Spark Calls for Crackdown on Organized Crime in Netherlands

The murders of a Dutch lawyer who represented a witness in a high-profile criminal case against suspected gangland bosses and a well-known Dutch crime reporter sparked calls for a tougher crackdown on organized crime in the Netherlands.

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus called the murder of journalist Peter R. de Vries an attack on Dutch society, saying: "Organized crime has crossed a line."

De Vries was acting as a confidante to the same witness that 44-year-old lawyer Derek Wiersum had been representing in the criminal case, and both cases came as major shocks to the country and increased calls for an end to organized crime.

Wiersum was murdered in 2019, and de Vries in July of this year. The caretaker of the Dutch government pledged to spend more on tackling organized crime rooted in the country's underworld drugs industry.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Peter R. de Vries memorial
The murders of a prominent Dutch crime reporter and a Dutch lawyer have sparked calls for a crackdown on organized crime. Above, flowers are seen at the Lange Leidse Dwarsstraat, where de Vries was shot on July 8, 2021, in Amsterdam. Patrick van Katwijk/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Two men were convicted Monday and sentenced to 30 years in prison for Wiersum's murder.

Wiersum was gunned down on September 18, 2019, outside his home in Amsterdam by a man who then fled in a getaway car that was waiting nearby. Police found DNA traces of both defendants in the getaway car and other vehicles used in the days before the shooting to monitor Wiersum's movements.

"With their brutal act, the men have shown a complete lack of respect for the life of another," Amsterdam District Court said in a summary of the written verdicts. "Solely for money, they took Wiersum's life and inflicted immense and irreparable suffering on his wife, children, parents and other relatives."

Prosecutors said that mobile phone data also showed that both men were in the area at the time of the killing and "their involvement is shown in tapped conversations after the murder." Lawyers for both men, who have been identified by Dutch media only as Giërmo B. and Moreno B. in line with privacy regulations, had called for their acquittal.

The court said that while it was unclear who fired the fatal shots and who drove the getaway car, both men could be convicted of murder because "the actions of both suspects show that they were jointly out to kill Wiersum."

The lawyer represented a witness identified only as Nabil B. in a high-profile criminal case against suspected gangland bosses accused of involvement in a string of underworld killings. The main suspects, including alleged Dutch gangland boss Ridouan Taghi, are currently on trial in a long-running case on charges including involvement in six murders and four attempted murders. Nabil B. was involved in one of the slayings but cut a deal with prosecutors to provide evidence in return for a lighter sentence.

While the Amsterdam court convicted both men as hired hit men in the Wiersum killing, it didn't make a ruling on who contracted them to carry out the murder.

De Vries, who was shot in Amsterdam on July 6 and died nine days later, also acted as a confidante to the same witness. The first preliminary hearing in the trial of two men accused of involvement in de Vries' slaying is scheduled for next Monday.

Judges said the murder "caused great indignation, unrest and feelings of insecurity in society, because a servant of the rule of law has been killed" and said they considered it an aggravating factor when considering their sentence.

Dutch Lawyer Murder
Two men have been convicted and sentenced to 30 years for the murder of a Dutch lawyer. Above, the lawyer's body is carried into a hearse after he was shot in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on September 18, 2019. Peter Dejong, File/AP Photo