Peter R De Vries

On Bended Knee is No Way to be Free

Dutch TV journalist Peter R De Vries is famous for cracking the criminal cases that no one else can. But with Ridouan Taghi, Peter meets his match. When Peter joins the Crown Witness’ team, he crosses a line Taghi can’t accept.


Just a heads-up – This podcast contains material some listeners may find disturbing – there’s violence, strong language, and drugs right from the start.


It’s a Tuesday morning in March, 2018.

A Dutch-Moroccan businessman named Reduan B arrives at his office in north Amsterdam.

He runs a printing and design firm.

He’s also the brother of Nabil B, the star witness in the Netherlands’ largest criminal trial.


Reduan never talks about his brother. 

But recently, the subject has been hard to avoid.

That’s because Dutch prosecutors have publicly identified Nabil as a crown witness.

He’s testifying against drug kingpin Ridouan Taghi and 16 other men, who’ve been charged with nearly two dozen murders and attempted killings. 

The Dutch government was supposed to protect Nabil’s family. His brother should have been in a safehouse by now. 

PETER SCHOUTEN – prosecutors were naive in the Netherlands…


…So they basically thought on the level of maybe you will get a brick through your window, instead of your own brother is going to be killed.

That’s Peter Schouten, one of Nabil’s former lawyers.

PETER SCHOUTEN – Nabil started to talk to the prosecutors that they should organize the protection around him, his family, very well

But prosecutors believe the threat to his family is exaggerated. 

One of them writes in a memo, “in the Netherlands, the families of crown witnesses have never been harmed…”


So, when forced to present evidence in a related case, prosecutors announce Nabil’s participation… without any warning.

One of Nabil’s other brothers says: “It felt like the family was being sacrificed.” 

PETER SCHOUTEN – Nabil has always been warning police and his lawyers and the people around him that this is not an organization to take lightly. 

It’s a given:

Speak about Taghi, and he’ll kill you. 

If he can’t reach you, he’ll kill those that you love.  


Nabil’s mother flees the country.

And the rest of the family is concerned Taghi’s group is tracking all of them.

Nabil’s brother, Reduan has been careful. He cancels most appointments.

But today, he needs a new staff member for his printing business.

And he’s about to interview someone for the job.

He buzzes open the door. 

The man is wearing jeans, a black hoodie, and a pair of black Nikes.

As the man reaches the…


…office, he pulls out a gun, and fires six times.

Then escapes in a stolen car.

A colleague finds Nabil’s brother dead on the floor just outside his office. 

There’s spilt coffee and a pool of blood.

I’m Mitchell Prothero, a reporter with Project Brazen

This is Gateway

Episode Five – “On bended knee is no way to be free”



That’s the voice of Peter De Vries…. 

A Dutch TV personality, described as “the Keith Richards of crime reporters”.

He’s a household name in the Netherlands.

Tall, in his early 60s, with silver hair, and alert blue eyes. 


WOUTER – He’s like, the embodiment of the crime journalist in the Netherlands

This is journalist Wouter Laumans.

WOUTER – he did some very impressive work on big criminal cases. But he was also…


…larger than life.

Peter’s big break came in the 1980s, when he covered the kidnapping of Freddy Heineken, heir to the beer fortune.


Peter stuns Dutch TV viewers, helping to solve a number of cold cases.

In one, he secretly films a suspect confessing to murder. 

In another, De Vries persuades thousands of men to volunteer for DNA testing, cracking a long-abandoned…


…murder case.

He says, “My main interest is in the psychology behind a crime, not the act itself”

But Peter was always willing to challenge the status quo. 

WOUTER – he was also a guy who stood up for stuff he thought was right. He got personally involved in cases

Peter’s favourite quote is the one commonly attributed to Edmund Burke: 

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’

He gets it tattooed on his calf. 


After his brother’s murder, the Dutch government belatedly moves Nabil’s family into safehouses.

They can’t even attend the funeral.

One of the brothers tells an interviewer: “if I find my Dutch passport, I’ll tear it up. I gave my brother to this country and I can’t even stand next to his coffin.’


On television, Peter De Vries keeps highlighting the danger facing Nabil’s family.


But soon, he has to confront that danger himself:

He tweets that police have told him he’s on Taghi’s kill list.

Peter’s used to death threats. 

He tweets about this one, just out of frustration, because the police won’t give him any more details. 

The next day, Peter posts a new tweet. He’s received a surprising message from Ridouan Taghi.

He posts the letter, in full.

In it, Taghi says…


TAGHI VO – With shock and amazement I read the news that according to the police and justice department, I have ordered you to be liquidated. None of that is true. Pure nonsense! I have no reason to hurt you. You can go wherever and whenever you want without fearing any danger from me…

It turns out, Taghi’s a fan.

TAGHI – As a boy, I always watched your TV show. I respect you, and see you as a professional journalist…


…Not a hair on my head thinks of hurting you. I have 100,000 percent nothing against you.

But Taghi’s admiring words do not reassure Peter. 



This is Nabil’s lawyer Derk Wiersum speaking on Dutch Radio 

Since taking Nabil’s case, Derk has been concerned about his OWN safety.


He’s been getting calls from unknown numbers, day and night. 

When he answers, the line goes dead. 

And the police have noticed a car driving around Derk’s home with stolen plates.

It’s a Wednesday morning, in September 2019, and Derk is about to drive to court.

It’s a stressful time. Nabil wants to cancel part of the crown witness agreement…

He’s gambling the state will sweeten the deal…


…and improve his protection.

Derk gets into his car.

As he closes the door, a man in a black hoodie appears, holding a pistol. 

The man pulls the trigger, but the gun jams. 

He runs off and Derk…inexplicably chases after him. 

The gunman tries again. 

This time the gun doesn’t jam. 

He shoots Derk ten times. Then flees in a white minivan.



PAUL – when the lawyer Derk Wiersum was killed in September, 2019, that shocked all society, even the politicians who had been asleep for the years before

That’s journalist Paul Vugts. 

The Taghi case, with its mostly immigrant victims, had so far produced plenty of talk about security.

But with the killing of a prominent white lawyer, the Netherlands was shocked. Dutch society had…


…never seen anything like it

And the Head of the Dutch police union fans the flames

<Police Union “Nacro State” Tape>

“Organised crime has got totally out of control.” he says,  “The Netherlands has turned into a “narco-state”.

Over 100 investigators are assigned to solving Derk’s murder. 

A task force is formed to protect people under threat. 

And a 400-person intelligence team begins to investigate organised crime.


But as for Taghi? 

He’s not finished. The killings continue. 

More after the break.


It’s March 2020. COVID has the world locked down. 

Working from home, journalist Peter De Vries gets an email that catches his eye.

It’s from Nabil’s family. 

After Derk’s murder, they need help finding a new lawyer for Nabil.

And they want Peter to join the team, as media advisor and confidante. 


The chance to be involved in the biggest story in Dutch crime reporting – it’s too much for Peter to resist.

Everyone tells him not to do it.

That Peter would even consider the request surprises his fellow journalists – 

Aside from his safety, wouldn’t it compromise his journalistic ethics?

Wouter Laumans had a frank conversation with Peter about it

WOUTER – I said, Listen, you’ve been a crime journalist way, way longer than I have…


…but you haven’t really covered this new generation of criminals.

And you have to really watch out because I’ve misstepped in this whole situation, and a lot of my colleagues have, and it’s like. You are walking in a swamp, and you look around and you figure, Shit, I’m in the middle of a swamp. that’s the way this stuff feels like, right. And he looked at me long and he said, I’m capable enough to know how to do this. And I had the idea…


…that maybe he had the feeling that I was implying that his days were over, which I wasn’t, and he said, my time is not over. 

Peter makes up his mind… he’ll help Nabil.

But he’s got one condition. Peter wants to continue his work as a crime journalist. 

WOUTER – So in this case, he was working as a representative of the Crown Witness, but in other cases, he could be working as a journalist. In my point of view, Peter R de Vries climbed underneath the ropes…


…and stood in the corner of one of the people in the boxing ring. He took a side. That’s not the way I work. I think it’s a bad choice.

Peter brings in his longtime friend Peter Schouten, and famed Dutch attorney Onno de Jong to work on Nabil’s legal team.

PETER SCHOUTEN – Peter asked me to join him as the lawyer, the criminal defense lawyer of Nabil. On that team, then the name Onno was…


…dropped because he’s the expert on the Crown witnesses in the Netherlands.

ONNO – And since then, we formed a defence team. Peter R De Vries, Peter Schouten, and me and our client, of course, with the four of us.

When I speak with Peter Schouten and Onno de Jong, they have a full time security detail. 

They’re living in safe houses 24/7 with cops protecting them everywhere they go.

De Vries is offered the same take-it-or-leave-it deal with prosecutors.


He either gets a full time security protection – or no security at all. 

PETER SCHOUTEN – Peter refused to have close protection with bodyguards – as a journalist, he felt he could then not operate anymore in his trade, because he’s speaking to informers and he’s speaking to people who should stay secret. He protects his sources. So of course that is very difficult when you have six bodyguards walking around you the whole day. 

De Vries holds…


…a press conference to explain his decision.


He says… “The crown witness called me personally. I cannot refuse an urgent request because it feels uncomfortable or dangerous. That’s no reason not to do it. Otherwise I can’t look at myself in the mirror.”

In late 2020, Nabil’s new legal team receives a warning. 


PETER SCHOUTEN – Peter R De Vries, Onno and myself are put on a death list 

They have a plan for these threats.

PETER SCHOUTEN – from the first moment I discussed this cooperation with Peter, we were both aware of the risk to do this case. And I know Peter already for 32 years, he was not a man that is quickly afraid and he wasn’t afraid about this. 

Here’s Onno de Jong

ONNO – what we agreed upon is that if something would happen…


…if somebody would be killed we wouldn’t stop, we would go on and we promise each other to continue.

Taghi’s prison routine is mind-numbingly dull. 

But today, at least, the routine is broken up. 

He’s got a meeting with a lawyer


Youssef is in his late thirties.

He has a strong resemblance to Taghi.

Because Youssef isn’t just a lawyer. He’s also Taghi’s cousin.

The Dutch prosecutors didn’t want him on the legal team.

And for good reason. 

PAUL – from the moment they had very good notice of what the communication was. It was about criminal plans.


Prosecutors later allege what happens next…

Youssef holds up an ipad, revealing text messages from Taghi’s gang.

Taghi reads them, and then jots down responses on a notepad. Youssef takes pictures of the notes…

And just like that, Taghi is back in communication with his organization.

Taghi’s got three main orders for the gang…



…and foremost, Taghi needs cash. And to get cash, he’s gotta keep cocaine moving into Europe.

Second, and perhaps most dangerous for his family, one of Taghi’s brothers in Morocco is on trial for the botched killing in Marrakech. 

The judges, Taghi tells Youssef, need to be paid off.

Finally, and most importantly, Taghi wants to get out of jail.

It needs to be the right plan, and the right team. 


One idea… is to have mercenaries attack the prison by helicopter, in a commando style operation… AND dump tonnes of oil on the roads around the jail, to delay the police response.

Taghi tells Youssef he’s been planning the operation, and has stashed the money to pay for it.

Before Youssef leaves the prison, authorities say that Taghi gives one last instruction, about taking care of a well-known journalist….


It’s July 2021.

Peter De Vries has just appeared on Dutch television and is walking down the street checking his phone.

A man in a cap follows him from a distance. 

Then Peter passes two other men. He doesn’t notice they’ve pulled out phones and started filming him. 

With the cameras rolling, the man in the ball cap walks up behind Peter. 

pulls out a gun, and shoots him five times.


The shooter escapes, while the men film Peter bleeding on the ground. 

They later post the video on YouTube. 

The message? 

If you’re with the crown witness, we’ll come get you no matter who you are.

ONNO – it was a signal. Everybody who is helping the crown witness has to go to sleep. 

Peter spends nine days in a coma before he dies.



Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says Peter was “afraid of nothing and no-one”.

During Peter’s funeral, radio stations play his favourite song.

Peter’s adopted motto, “on bended knee is no way to be free” appears on signs…


…across the country. 

His friend, lawyer Peter Schouten, gets it tattooed on his leg…

PETER SCHOUTEN – I went into this, I took these risks because I believe in the rule of law. 

PETER SCHOUTEN – People… think that we are crime fighters. We are not crime fighters… We are defending criminals.

Next time on Gateway, it’s my turn to go face-to-face with Ridouan Taghi. 

Mitch Tape: It doesn’t hurt to be paranoid when it comes to stuff like this, because it’s real, you know? It’s actually real…


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GATEWAY is a production of Project Brazen in partnership with PRX.


It’s reported and hosted by me – Mitchell Prothero.

Additional reporting and production by Dontxupinazo Productions

Editing and fact-checking by Georgia Gee.

Executive producers are Bradley Hope, Tom Wright and Nicholas Brennan.

Special thanks to Sarah Hurtes and the whole team at Project Brazen.



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