THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Two men were convicted Monday and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of a Dutch lawyer who represented a witness in a high-profile criminal case against suspected gangland bosses, a slaying that shocked the nation and sparked calls for a tougher crackdown on organized crime.
The lawyer, 44-year-old Derk Wiersum, was gunned down on Sept. 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.
Well-known Dutch crime reporter, Peter R. 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.
The murder sparked outrage in the Netherlands with Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus calling it an attack on Dutch society and saying: “Organized crime has crossed a line.”
In recent budget proposals for the coming year, the caretaker Dutch government pledged to spend more on tackling organized crime that is rooted in the country’s lucrative underworld drugs industry.
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.