Heineken kidnapper on trial in Amsterdam over armed robbery plot

Frans Meijer, 65, appears in court alongside son after being shot and arrested in October

More than a decade after his release from jail over the 1983 kidnapping of the beer magnate Freddy Heineken – turned into a film starring Anthony Hopkins in 2015 – a 65-year-old man has appeared back in an Amsterdam court alongside his son on suspicion of planning an armed robbery.

Frans Meijer is on trial after being shot and arrested last October following an altercation with a police officer who had been alerted by residents to the suspicious behaviour of two men near a security van carrying cash.

The court heard on Wednesday that Meijer, who was wearing a fake moustache and had a stolen van nearby, was armed and carrying two bulletproof vests and a device to jam mobile phone signals, when approached. He threatened the officer but was shot several times as he fled the scene in the Staatsliedenbuurt district of Amsterdam, the court heard. Meijer’s 26-year-old son gave himself up.

A third suspect appearing in court for a first appearance relating to the charges was Laurens Boellaard, 35, the son of a second Heineken kidnapper, Jan Boellaard.

All three men deny the charges. Boellaard was released on bail for the duration of the trial while Meijer and his son remain in custody.

Heineken was one of the richest people in the Netherlands and chairman and chief executive of the family brewing company when he and his driver, Ab Doderer, were kidnapped on 9 November 1983 outside the firm’s offices in Amsterdam.

As the kidnappers sought a £15m ransom, Meijer’s daily job was to feed the two men, who were tethered to a wall in a hut on an Amsterdam business park.

Meijer would tell drinkers on leaving his favourite pub every dinnertime that he was “going to give Heineken something to eat”, comments erroneously thought to have been a joke about the story that was dominating the news.

On 30 November, the men were released in exchange for 35m Dutch guilders (£15.7m), in what was the highest ransom ever paid at the time.

The ransom given to the kidnappers was not recovered in full. Heineken died, aged 78, in 2002.

The kidnappers – Meijer, Boellaard and William Holleeder, who is currently on trial in The Hague over unconnected cases of murder, manslaughter and attempted murder – fled on being paid their money.

Meijer, however, gave himself up amid a massive manhunt. Ahead of his trial he was sent to a psychiatric observation clinic from which he escaped without trace in 1985. He was convicted in absentia the same year.

He was tracked down in 1994 by the TV crime journalist Peter Rudolf de Vries in Paraguay, where he had married a local woman and had three children. Meijer was running a burger restaurant and claimed to both regret his crimes and to have converted to Christianity.

After a complicated legal process to get him back to the Netherlands, Meijer was finally extradited in 2002. He was released from a Dutch jail in 2005, after which he was thought to have returned to Paraguay.

The current court case is expected to resume in March.


Daniel Boffey in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

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