Shock at 'un-Dutch' mass shooting

10th April 2011, Comments 9 comments

The Netherlands was in shock Sunday after a gunman killed six people and wounded 11 in a packed shopping mall before committing suicide in an act the media dubbed "un-Dutch".

"Alphen aan den Rijn will never be the same," said one of about 5,400 messages on an electronic condolence register opened in the town where the 24-year-old man went on the rampage on Saturday.

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

Gunman Tristan van der Vlis entered the De Ridderhof shopping mall in the town about 40 kilometres (25 miles) southwest of Amsterdam at 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, striding around without haste. Dutch authorities have not identified the victims.

The man then shot 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 "un-Dutch" nature of the shooting, which they said was more common in countries like the United States.

"An un-Dutch drama," the NOS public broadcaster labelled the killing.

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

If one counted the number of mass shootings proportional to country size, Europe "is more affected than America," 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.

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

The prosecution service said he was in trouble with the police in 2003 for contraventions of the arms and ammunitions act but the case was dropped.

A photograph of the killer was circulated on Twitter on Sunday showing a high forehead, short brown hair, high cheekbones and what appears to be 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.

The police continue to appeal through the media for photos and videos of the shooting.

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

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

A silent memorial service will be held outside the mall at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT).

© 2011 AFP

9 Comments To This Article

  • Canucky Woman posted:

    on 26th April 2011, 14:26:28 - Reply

    I always laugh when Americans, with the worst record in the western world for shootings, still bark on and on about why everyone should own a gun.

    Did it ever occur to you that your "freedom" is killing people? Or do you think psychos can just sneak up behind crowds and mass choke them to death?

    Yes, I'm an anti-gun leftist. You said it like it's a bad thing. I don't, sorry, no matter how loud you bark and rant and rave. Yawn. You'll never convince me. A gun in my purse would be useless if I"ve already been shot in a shopping mall.

  • Doormat posted:

    on 20th April 2011, 00:35:56 - Reply

    Un-Dutch?! Was only a couple of years prior to this, a Dutch teenager was conspiring to murder is fellow classmates at his school in a very very Dutch village not 5 kms from Alphen. He was in the process of aquiring weapons to carry out the bloodbath but was caught before he could act. Once I was leaving Leiden station and 10 mins later 2 people were shot and killed, in the day! It's happening satistically too often to be considered un-Dutch
  • JR Bailey posted:

    on 14th April 2011, 06:42:24 - Reply


    Until anti-gun Leftists get it OUT of their heads that it is inanimate objects which do the killing, NOTHING will change.

    Three of the premier Gun Control Advocates were:

    Adolf Hitler
    Joseph Stalin
    Mao Zhedong (Mao tse Tung)

    Stripping people of a qualitative tool of self defense, and WORSE in the case of the Netherlands and Great Britain, is stripping the rights of individual to even DEFEND themselves against attackers, is the sign of a people which has voluntarily turned into slaves of the state!

    The upshot (pardon the pun) of all this is that because ignorance of the facts pertaining to guns abound in Europe and the Netherlands specifically in this case, people will end up continuing to be victims of both Loons and Dictators.

    Enjoy the Islamization of the Netherlands, where the native Dutch have been stripped of even the right to keep their own country, as they have become a Land of Willing Victims.

  • Steven Lundle posted:

    on 13th April 2011, 20:12:43 - Reply

    Gun offences have been a problem before,of course.But what happened here puts it more on par with the school shootings in the US,and more recently in Finland and Brazil.
  • tls posted:

    on 13th April 2011, 19:15:17 - Reply

    Actually, Steven, there have been similar events in the Netherlands before, just not with quite so many casualties. In the 3 years I've lived in Rotterdam, I know of two separate events here, and one was in a shopping mall. It's really sad, but this kind of senseless violence crosses social and political borders.
  • Steven Lundle posted:

    on 13th April 2011, 18:08:45 - Reply

    What they mean by un-dutch is the fact that this has never happened in our country before.
  • jaye posted:

    on 13th April 2011, 15:12:20 - Reply

    A Dutchman goes into a Dutch shopping center in a Dutch city and shoots Dutch people. What's so un-Dutch about this? Get your heads out of the sand Nederlanders!
  • Stina posted:

    on 13th April 2011, 14:04:51 - Reply

    I agree Claire. "UnDutch"? When it happens in the States we are just as shocked and appalled. A true tragedy.
  • Claire Walsh posted:

    on 13th April 2011, 12:10:08 - Reply

    An 'un-Dutch' event? What a very strange way to describe an occurrence which is not 'normal' in any country.