The Amsterdam Court of Appeal will pronounce its verdict on Friday in the appeal against Willem Holleeder. The now 64-year-old man was previously sentenced to life in prison, a sentence that still hangs over his head.
“I went back step by step and eventually every day, yes,” said Willem Holleeder in 2018 about his visits to Amsterdam. “I am and will remain a Jordanian and it is still about the Westertoren.” It is an answer that Holleeder gave to the then public prosecutor Sabine Tammes, when the trial was still pending in court.
Tammes quoted from a conversation Holleeder had with a probation officer in 2011. In it he said he wanted to distance himself from the criminal environment and Amsterdam. Without success.
Holleeder grew up in the Amsterdam working-class district of the Jordaan with a view of the Westertoren. Never being able to see the tallest church tower in Amsterdam again became a metaphor for some trial participants for the punishment the man would deserve.
Suspected of controlling five murders
On Friday it will be up to the court to determine whether Holleeder deserves punishment, and if so which one. The criminal, who turned 64 last month, is suspected of having played a part in the murder of Cor van Hout in 2003 and the death of Robert ter Haak, who was standing next to Van Hout when he was shot dead in Amstelveen.
Holleeder would also be involved in the murder of businessman Willem Endstra in 2004 and the aggravated assault of David Denneboom, who was visiting Endstra and was shot in the knee.
He is also said to have provoked the liquidations of Kees Houtman and John Mieremet, both in 2005. Holleeder is also charged with a failed attack on Mieremet. The latest victim is Thomas van der Bijl, who was shot dead in his bar in Amsterdam in 2006.
Holleeder denies involvement
Holleeder denies any involvement, but was found guilty of all offenses on July 4, 2019, resulting in a life sentence. The court even saw indications that Holleeder was responsible for the death of Sam Klepper in 2000, without being prosecuted.
All this strengthened Holleeder’s conviction that his guilt had already been established in advance. It made him openly doubt the Amsterdam court, which would hear his appeal. This had everything to do with the verdict in the Passsage liquidation process in 2017. Although Holleeder was not on trial, his name still appeared in the verdict as part of the criminal organization that was on trial.
The court considered itself perfectly capable of making an independent judgment about Holleeder and gradually gained confidence in the appeal. In his last word, Holleeder addressed the justices (title of judges on appeal) and expressed his thanks for having taken the file so well.
Vision OM unchanged
The vision of the Public Prosecution Service (OM) and the defense has remained the same. Justice sees Holleeder as a master instigator, with “power, envy and pursuit of money” as motives for his actions. Lawyers Sander Janssen and Desiree de Jonge have argued that it is easy to point to Holleeder, but that there were plenty of other criminals with a motive for the murders in this process. In addition to the statements of Holleeder’s sisters, according to the lawyers, hard evidence is lacking.
From 10 a.m., the court will rule in the extra-secure Judicial Complex Schiphol. An almost definitive answer to the question whether Holleeder will ever see the Westertoren again.