The murder of a lawyer for a key witness in a major Dutch organised crime trial has sparked outrage and calls for a tougher crackdown on violent underworld gangs.
Derk Wiersum, a 44-year-old father of two, was gunned down in the street shortly after leaving his house in Amsterdam. Police are hunting a hoodie-wearing assailant who fled on foot.
Wiersum was the lawyer for a state witness named Nabil B in a case against two Moroccan-born men dubbed the most wanted criminals in the Netherlands.
The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said the killing in broad daylight in the capital was “incredibly disturbing” and that police were “on top” of the situation.
“This is very alarming news. The police and the public prosecutor are investigating,” Rutte told reporters.
The two suspects, Ridouan Taghi and Said Razzouki, are the subject of international arrest warrants for murder and drug trafficking.
The lawyer’s murder came a year after Nabil B’s own brother was shot dead, raising questions about why Wiersum was not provided with better security.
The justice and security minister, Ferd Grapperhaus, said he has set up a team of police and prosecutors led by the country’s counter-terrorism coordinator to intensify security around people working in the legal system.
“This is an attack on our constitutional state,” Grapperhaus told reporters in The Hague, adding: “Organised crime has crossed a line.”
One of Wiersum’s two children was at home at the time of the shooting, De Telegraaf newspaper said. Police covered his body with a white sheet while forensics teams investigated the site.
“This is unprecedented,” Peter de Vries, one of the Netherlands’ best known crime reporters, told BNR news radio.
Amsterdam has long been known for its tolerant attitude towards marijuana, but a report commissioned by the city council earlier this month said it now had a major problem with drugs.
The report, titled The Other Side of Amsterdam, said that “drug-related organised crime – the ’underworld’ – exerts a significant influence on our city.”
One of the main Dutch police unions said the shooting showed the situation in the Netherlands was getting out of control.
“This is a confirmation that we live in a narco-state”, said Jan Struijs of the NPB police union. “It is an attack on the rule of law.”
In 2018 the union made a similar warning, saying that the government and politicians underestimated the scale of crime, corruption, threats and money-laundering in the country.
Meanwhile, a man died of his wounds after gunmen on a scooter fired shots at his car on Wednesday evening. Police believe it was an unrelated incident.
Police said they were looking for two suspects wearing black and riding on a black three-wheeler scooter.