AMSTERDAM (CN) — Cheers erupted in a Dutch courtroom Thursday as the Netherlands’ most notorious underworld figure, Willem Holleeder, was convicted of five murders, including his own brother-in-law, and sentenced to life in prison.
Nicknamed “The Nose,” Holleeder orchestrated the kidnapping of Alfred Heineken, heir to the Heineken brewery fortune, in 1983. Together with his brother-in-law Cor van Hout, whom he later murdered, Holleeder kidnapped the 60-year-old CEO, along with his driver, from in front of the Amsterdam brewery.
Both were eventually returned after a ransom of 35 million guilders was paid, roughly $28 million dollars.
Holleeder and van Hout fled to France where they stayed, first on the run and then in custody, for three years, before being extradited to the Netherlands. At the time, France and the Netherlands had no extradition treaty for extortion or kidnapping, leaving France unable to send them back. It wasn’t until a new extradition treaty was signed that they were returned.
Both were sentenced to 11 years in jail in 1987, then released in 1992. They celebrated their release with a party at the Marriott Hotel in Amsterdam. When they arrived, the orchestra played the Heineken theme song. Only a portion of the ransom was ever recovered. Van Hout was murdered in 2003.
Holleeder, 61, went on to have a rich criminal career and was known for driving around his hometown of Amsterdam on a Vespa scooter. In 2006 he was arrested for extortion. He was convicted and served five years in jail, being released in 2012. He was rearrested in 2014 and served the remainder of his time after he threatened Dutch investigative journalist Peter R. de Vries, who had written many stories about Holleeder over the years.
On Nov. 5, 2016, Holleeder’s sister, Astrid Holleeder, published a book about her life with him. For security reasons, nearly everything about the book was kept secret and was offered to Dutch bookstores without a title or an author. “Judas” was a runaway bestseller, becoming the best-selling book in Dutch history. It was translated into English in 2018.
In the book, Astrid Holleeder details how she began secretly recording conversations with her brother, as she feared for her life. She was already suspicious of his involvement in van Hout’s murder and worried that he might kill her or their other sister, Sonja — van Hout’s widow.
In 2017 the Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) announced that Holleeder would be tried for the murders of five of his criminal associates: Cor van Hout, Willem Endstra, Kees Houtman and Thomas van der Bijl. The OM planned to include the recordings that Astrid Holleeder had made of her brother as evidence in the trial.
The trial began in 2018 and lasted 18 months, with spectators lining up outside the courthouse in Amsterdam to get a seat. The verdict was announced Thursday: guilty on all five counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.
In sentencing him to life in prison, Chief Judge Frank Wieland told Holleeder: “You were merciless and indifferent in your belief that you had the power of life and death.”
One of Holleeder’s lawyers, Sander Janssen, read a statement on behalf of Holleeder after the verdict was announced. Holleeder claimed that he was innocent of all of the charges and that the trial was not fair.
An attorney for Sonja and Astrid Holleeder issued a statement on behalf of the sisters: “The sentence speaks for itself.”