Dutch shooter had already been in trouble over weapons

10th April 2011, Comments 3 comments

The Dutch man who shot and killed six people and wounded at least 10 others had already been investigated over his gun use, it emerged Sunday, a day after the massacre.

Investigators said 24-year-old Tristan van der Vlis, who shot himself dead after his rampage in a packed shopping centre, had been the subject of an investigation in 2003.

Police were alerted after he accidentally shot himself in the leg with an air pistol, but a case for possible contravention of the arms and ammunition act was eventually dropped, they said.

Van der Vlis was a member of a shooting club and held a licence to carry five firearms.

Several thousand people gathered Sunday evening for a silent memorial service outside the De Ridderhof mall, where the shootings took place, and where hundreds of wreaths and candles have been left in memory of the victims.

Van der Vlis entered the mall in the town about 40 kilometres (25 miles) southwest of Amsterdam around lunchtime on Saturday, when it was packed with children and their parents.

Witnesses said he opened fire with an automatic firearm on shoppers and merchants, moving methodically.

The municipality said Sunday that the victims were three women aged 45, 68 and 91, and three men of 42, 49 and 80, all residents of Alphen aan den Rijn. The 42-year-old was of Syrian origin.

After his shooting spree, the man then turned a gun on himself, taking the motive for the mass killing with him to the grave.

In a farewell letter to his parents made public overnight, Van der Vlis said he was unhappy and wanted to commit suicide but made no mention of killing others.

Dutch churches held memorial services for the victims on Sunday as the media analysed the shooting, which they said was more common in countries like the United States.

The NOS public broadcaster labelled the killing an "un-Dutch drama."

But disaster management professor Eelco Dykstra told the station: "This type of thing can happen anywhere."

Relative to population size, Europe "is more affected than America," by mass killings, he said.

Dykstra lamented The Netherlands' lack of expertise in profiling potential mass killers and detecting early warning signs.

"We have many procedures and protocols on paper, but little experience in the field," he said.

"Alphen aan den Rijn will never be the same," said one of about 8,200 messages on an electronic condolence register opened in the town.

"Why? We are incredulous and shocked," said another. "The Netherlands lost its innocence."

A photograph of the killer was circulated on Twitter on Sunday showing a man with a high forehead, short brown hair, high cheekbones and a nervous smile.

Investigators combed the scene of the shooting overnight, collecting spent cartridges littered throughout the mall. The bodies of the victims were returned to their families on Sunday.

Police in the eastern city of Rotterdam announced meanwhile they had arrested a 17-year-old who had announced on Twitter that he intended to copy the shooting in his neighbourhood.

The De Ridderhof mall remained closed on Sunday but residents of apartments above it were allowed to return home after spending the night in a sports hall.

© 2011 AFP

3 Comments To This Article

  • JR Bailey posted:

    on 13th April 2011, 04:26:50 - Reply

    What's disturbing is that the author of this article doesn't understand the difference between an automatic weapon and a semi-automatic weapon.

    The first is a machine gun which is used by militaries around the world, the second is designed for civilian use.

    What is more disturbing is that the Dutch, like most Europeans are clearly detached from reality, facts, and empirical evidence relating to guns, gun use, and gun ownership.

    Further saddening is the fact that the Dutch, until recently, considered anyone defending themselves to be EQUALLY guilty with the criminal attacking them.

    The Dutch have embraced the ideology of the Nazis entoto: except that the ALL INNOCENT people are now considered 'undesirables' in the mindset of the Dutch Govts, Dutch Judiciary, and local Dutch govts.

    Lemmings the lot of them.

  • wesley-nl posted:

    on 11th April 2011, 15:07:05 - Reply

    This is a little disturbing, that another young person has threatened to do the same thing! What the heck is wrong with these people! :-(
  • Stop the blame game and use some common sense posted:

    on 11th April 2011, 11:02:46 - Reply

    Typical Dutch in la la land, can't face the facts that their health care system fails and if they had paid more attention to their rigid villages and offer some mental health instead of offering them zombies in the village than maybe the guy would have gotten the medications needed for his schizophrenia. Blaming and playing victim is the dutch way.