Trial opens of alleged killers of Dutch reporter De Vries

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FILE - In this Thursday, July 8, 2021 file photo, a photo and floral tributes mark the spot where journalist Peter R. de Vries was shot in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The trial opens Monday, Oct. 18, 2021 of two men charged with murder in the killing of Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, who was gunned down in the center of Amsterdam, a brazen attack that sent shockwaves through the Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

THE HAGUE – Witnesses, security camera footage and forensic evidence all point to two men charged in the murder of Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, prosecutors said Monday as the trial of the suspects opened in Amsterdam.

De Vries, 64, was gunned down in July in the Dutch capital in a brazen attack that sent shockwaves through the Netherlands.

The suspected gunman is a 21-year-old Dutch man, identified under Dutch privacy rules only as Delano G. A 35-year-old Polish man, Kamiel E., is accused of being the getaway driver. They both were arrested shortly after De Vries was shot July 6 on an Amsterdam street after making one of his regular appearances on a Dutch television show. He died nine days later.

Prosecutors said police found two weapons in the getaway car when the men were detained on a highway about 50 kilometers (30 miles) outside Amsterdam, a Heckler and Koch machine pistol and, in a Louis Vuitton bag, a blank-firing pistol that had been modified to take 9-millimeter rounds.

Prosecutors said forensic tests showed that a bullet found in De Vries' head was likely fired by the modified gun.

Both suspects were present in court as the preliminary hearing got underway, along with relatives of De Vries.

Delano G. declined to make a statement in court and has refused to speak to police and prosecutors. Kamiel E., speaking in Polish with an interpreter translating his comments into Dutch, denied involvement in the shooting.

“Your honor, I didn't kill anybody, I know nothing about the murder, I did not see a weapon,” he said.

The shooting sparked an outpouring of grief — thousands lined up outside an Amsterdam theater to pay their last respects days after De Vries' death — and condemnation in the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the shooting an “attack on a courageous journalist and also an attack on the free journalism that is so essential for our democracy, our constitutional state, our society.”

De Vries was the Netherlands’ most famous crime journalist, reporting on and writing a bestselling book about the 1983 kidnapping of beer magnate Freddy Heineken and campaigning tirelessly to resolve cold cases and clear the names of wrongfully convicted people.

De Vries recently had been an adviser and confidant for a witness in the trial of the alleged leader and other members of a crime gang that police described as an “oiled killing machine.” A lawyer representing the witness and the witness' brother also have been murdered.

The suspected gangland leader, Ridouan Taghi, was extradited to the Netherlands from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2019. He remains jailed while standing trial along with 16 other suspects.

Prosecutors said that their investigations into who ordered De Vries' murder is continuing.