Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 4 August 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.Kidnapper Ferdi Elsas killed in road accident
All of today's Dutch papers feature the seemingly unremarkable story of a 66-year-old man killed in a road accident on Monday. Ferdi Elsas was hit by an industrial digger at a junction, whilst riding his bicycle in Gelderland. His death makes the headlines because Elsas was responsible for the kidnapping that gripped the Netherlands in 1987–88.
Ferdi Elsas abducted supermarket millionaire Gerrit Jan Heijn in September 1987. He obtained ransom from the Heijn family by sending them taped messages and part of his hostage's little finger. Only when Elsas was arrested seven months later was it revealed that he had shot and buried Heijn on the day of the kidnapping and kept the family – and indeed the whole country – in agonising uncertainty for all those months.
De Telegraaf describes Elsas as ‘a cruel psychopath" and ‘heartless and cold-blooded’, while de Volkskrant charts his path ‘from unemployed engineer to ice-cold murderer’.
He was sentenced to a 20-year jail term in 1988 but was released in 2001
Searching for forgiveness
According to De Telegraaf, Elsas declared in an interview in 2006 that "around the time of the murder I was completely mad" while de Volkskrant reports that he was ‘at war with Dutch society’ after losing his job. The paper also reports that Gerrit Jan Heijn was a random choice of victim: "it could have been any wealthy Dutchman. Elsas just wanted money to finance a vengeful campaign to get back at his former colleagues.’
De Telegraaf talks to the man who led the hunt for Gerrit Jan Heijn's kidnapper at the time, former police commissioner Kees Sietsma. "Of course you don't wish death on anyone but this man caused so much suffering... My memory of him is dominated by the utterly immoral nature of his actions. It surprises me to this day that someone without a criminal background was capable of such a horrible crime."
Sietsma ended by expressing "an incredible amount of respect" for the murdered hostage's widow Hank. "While many crime victims' families drown in sorrow and hatred, she found the strength to talk to her husband's murderer face to face. To turn hatred into something positive."
The Heijn family's response to the news of Elsas' death is also a testament to this spirit of forgiveness: "It is always sad when a wife loses her husband and children lose their father. We wish them every strength at this difficult time."
TV evangelists axe Jesus show
Having only recently bounced back from a media ban imposed by his Christian broadcasting employers after he peeled off for a photo shoot for a gay glossy magazine, Arie Boomsma now finds the broadcaster has axed his latest show before production was fully underway.
Trouw reveals that the show There was this guy who walked on water has proved too much of a hot potato for the broadcaster. The idea was to give prominent non-Christian Dutch comedians carte blanche to present their own views of Jesus. "A unique opportunity to remove prejudices and encourage an open and honest discussion about Jesus," according to the presenter.
But this is a vision the Christian press and the broadcaster's old guard do not share. "It's regrettable and cheap." "Making fun of Jesus is an attack on the sanctity of the Lord. It's sheer godlessness."
AD reports that 2000 people have already cancelled their membership and the broadcaster has cancelled the show, calling it "an error of judgement."
Amsterdam's alternative art course sparks controversy
De Telegraaf reports that the Christian Democrats and Amsterdam's public transport company are up in arms about a graffiti art course being organised by the city's public library this summer. Five of the city's 18 library branches will even run the course for free, ‘but opposition is mounting,’ warns the paper.
"Graffiti is an art form," insists a library spokesperson. "We are talking about kids between the ages of eight and twelve. They're not being encouraged to go out and spray paint trams or viaducts."
But the Christian Democrats are sceptical. "It may sound innocent ... but our public space is being ruined and it costs piles of public money to remove all this stuff." The public transport company puts a figure on the damage: "It costs us EUR 650,000 a year to clean up our vehicles and stations."
Devil-may-care gran and her guardian angel
AD tells the tale of adventurous grandmother Lenie van der Meer, with a photo of the 71-year-old and her new guardian angel: a tattoo on her shoulder. ‘The time that tattoos were the province of young rebels and tough bikers is well and truly over,’ comments the paper.
"I can be a bit impulsive,” admitted Van der Meer. “When I heard that they were opening a tattoo shop here, I started getting excited about the idea. So I went along and we agreed that I'd be their first customer. They got free publicity for tattooing a woman of 71 and I got a free tattoo."
"Times have changed. Anything goes these days," said the unconventional pensioner. But while her granddaughter is a fan of her gran's new image, Van der Meer hasn't dared break the news to her daughter yet. "She'll probably ask me if I've lost my mind."
Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica