By Toby Sterling and Bart H. Meijer
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Celebrity Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, known for his work in exposing the criminal underworld, was fighting for his life after being shot on an Amsterdam street, officials said on Tuesday.
Three suspects were detained, including the possible shooter, police said. They declined to provide any details.
“He was seriously wounded and is fighting for his life,” Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema said in a televised news conference. “He is a national hero to us all. A rare, courageous journalist who tirelessly sought justice.”
Police cordoned off the area of the shooting near the downtown Leidseplein square. They were collecting video footage, witness statements and forensic evidence.
De Vries won an international Emmy Award in the current affairs category in 2008 for his work investigating the disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the attack “shocking and incomprehensible. It was an attack on a courageous journalist and also an attack on the free press that is so critical to our democracy.”
“We are praying that he will survive,” he said.
Dutch broadcaster RTL said De Vries had just left its studio in downtown Amsterdam when one of five shots hit him in the head.
Amsterdam’s Parool newspaper published an image of the scene with several people gathered around a person lying on the ground.
De Vries, 64, is a celebrity in the Netherlands, as both a frequent commentator on television crime programs and an expert crime reporter with sources in both law enforcement and the underworld.
De Vries is known in the Netherlands for investigative work on countless cases, notably following the 1983 kidnapping of beer magnate Freddy Heineken.
De Vries had received threats from the criminal underworld in the past in connection with several cases.
In 2013 Willem Holleeder, the Heineken kidnapper, was convicted of making threats against De Vries. Holleeder is currently serving a life sentence for his involvement in five murders.
In 2019 Ridouan Taghi, currently on trial for murder and drug trafficking, took the unusual step of making a public statement denying reports that he had threatened to have De Vries killed.
De Vries has been acting as a counselor, but not lawyer, to a state witness identified as Nabil B. testifying in the case against Taghi and his alleged associates.
Nabil B.’s previous lawyer was shot and killed on an Amsterdam street in September 2019.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling and Bart Meijer; Additional reporting by Anthony DeutschEditing by Alistair Bell and Sandra Maler)