7 notorious Dutch criminals that will leave you shaking in your clogs

People often think of the Netherlands as a small, prosperous, forward-thinking country. But beyond the picturesque bikes, windmills, and tulips lays a dark underbelly — the Netherlands is unexpectedly home to some serious and disturbed criminals. 

Some of the most famous Dutch criminals include murderers, gangsters, and even a criminal of war.

Polish your magnifying glass — it’s time to dive into some of the most notorious criminals in Dutch history! 🔍

1. Joran van der Sloot: the disappearance of Natalee Holloway and the murder of Stephany Flores Ramírez 

On the surface, Joran van der Sloot seemed like a normal guy. He grew up in Arnhem and moved with his family to Aruba in 1990, where he became an exceptional student and star athlete on his football team. 

But the facade was quickly broken. At just 18 years old, Van der Sloot was named a prime suspect in the disappearance of an American girl named Natalee Holloway in Aruba. Van der Sloot was the last person who saw Natalee, but there was just one problem — Natalee’s body was never recovered, so Van der Sloot was never charged.

mugshot-of-joran-van-der-sloot
The prime suspect in the Holloway case was never charged for the crime. Image: Aruba Police Force/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Okay, so that’s just one case and perhaps Van der Sloot was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Except that five years later — to the day that Natalee went missing — 21-year-old Stephany Flores Ramírez was found beaten to death in a hotel room in Lima, Peru. Whose name was the room under? None other than Joran van der Sloot. 🤷

In due process, justice was served. Following Van der Sloot’s capture, a Peruvian judge gave the 25-year-old a sentence of 28 years imprisonment. He’s still locked up in a Peruvian jail to this day.

2. Willem Holleeder: the kidnapping of Freddy Heineken

Willem Holleeder is a notorious Amsterdam criminal and gangster. His nickname was De Neus (The Nose) because of his large — well, you get it. 👃

Holleeder is held responsible for a series of five murders, one of the victims being his own brother-in-law and accomplice Cor van Hout. Echt? 

However, his most notorious crime — and one of the most famous in Dutch history — was the kidnapping of Freddy Heineken, the CEO of Heineken, and his driver in 1983.

photo-of-dutch-criminal-willem-holleeder-and-cor-van-hout
Willem Holleeder (right) murdered his accomplice/brother-in-law Cor van Hout (left) Image: Rob Bogaerts/Wikimedia Commons/CC0 1.0

Holleeder demanded a ransom for the release of the men — but in a sudden twist, he and his men grabbed the money and ran without releasing their prisoners. Luckily, the two captives were eventually set free by the police. 🍻

In 1983, Holleeder was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for the kidnapping. In 2019, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for five murders and one count of manslaughter. 

3. Thijs H: the dog-walker serial killer

Most people who knew Thijs H. never thought of him as being anything but a nice guy. He was described as a quiet but sweet person. But, in May 2019, the Netherlands was shocked when the then 27-year-old murdered three dog-walkers in Den Haag and Limburg in a chaotic spree.  

On May 5, 2019, the brutalised body of a 56-year-old-woman who had been walking her dog, was found in the Scheveningen Bosjes.

Just two days later, two more bodies were discovered — this time all the way in Limburg. And guess what? The two victims had also walked their dogs at the time of the attack. What a strange coincidence! The dogs were also believed to be harmed during the attack. 😟

Detectives in Limburg connected the crimes to the one in Den Haag, and H. was thrown in the slammer. On July 31, 2020, a judge laid down the verdict: 18 years in prison with compulsory TBS treatment

4. Frans van Anraat: Dutch war criminal

This case makes us question if anyone can be truly trusted. Can you imagine finding out that your colleague at work is actually a war criminal? 

Well, that’s exactly what happened with Frans van Anraat. He was a Dutch businessman before he was convicted of war crimes. In the 1980s, Van Anraat started his own company, which supplied large quantities of mustard and nerve gas to Saddam Hussein’s regime. The gases were used against citizens in Iran and Iraq in 1987 and in the military attack against the Kurds in 1988, which killed 5,000 people. Talk about evil! 😞

The US requested his arrest in Italy in 1989, but he was released pending his trial and fled to Iraq. There, he became an Iraqi citizen and remained stayed for 14 years. 😲

However, on December 6, 2004, he was arrested by Dutch authorities on war crime and genocide charges and sentenced to 17 years imprisonment. The Court of Appeal in The Hague also ruled that he must pay a compensation of €25,000 each to 16 victims of gas attacks in Iraq and Iran.

5. Volkert van der Graaf: the murder of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn

Okay, so we’ve heard about crimes that had to have taken some balls to commit. Another pretty ballsy crime on our list is a guy who murdered a politician in broad daylight.

Volkert van der Graaf is a guy with some pretty passionate views about the environment and animals rights. On top of that, he harboured intense animosity towards Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn, who held controversial opinions about Islam, immigration, and multiculturalism.

On May 6, 2002, Van der Graaf decided that he had enough of the polarizing politician. He grabbed a gun and went to a radio station in Hilversum where Fortuyn was giving an interview.

When he came out of the station into the car park, Van der Graaf shot the politician point-blank in the head and ran away. He was immediately caught by Van der Graaf’s driver, who held him until the police arrived. 🏃‍♂️

Van der Graaf went through a criminal trial and the judge laid down a sentence of 18 years imprisonment. However, he was released in 2014 on parole, after having served just 12 years in jail. 😶

6. Ridouan Taghi: the most wanted criminal in the Netherlands

Meet the Dutch-Moroccan version of Walter White, Ridouan Taghi. He is suspected of ordering at least 10 murders related to organised crime, and he is allegedly the head of one of the largest drug rings in the world. Until his arrest in 2019, he was the most wanted criminal in the Netherlands. 😱

Taghi is suspected of ordering at least 10 liquidations. Image: Politie

READ MORE | Police escort the Netherlands’ most wanted man back to the country

Taghi is suspected of organising the murder of lawyer Derk Wiersum, as well as the brother of a key witness in a trial against Taghi. He is also alleged to have ordered the recent murder of Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries. Both Wiersum and De Vries were shot in the street in broad daylight.

7. Michael Panhuis: the murder of Anne Faber

This case may just frustrate you and make you question the criminal justice system.

Before 2017, Michael Panhuis already had a bad rap sheet. He was convicted in 2012 of raping two underage girls, a crime for which he was receiving treatment at an in-patient psychiatric clinic. However, on September 29, 2017, he was granted permission to leave the grounds and that’s when he committed his most terrible crime of all. 

Anne Faber was taking a bike ride in Soest, near Utrecht, when Panhuis suddenly abducted the 25-year-old student. He then assaulted, raped, and murdered the girl before dumping her body in the woods, where she would be discovered two weeks later. DNA evidence on Faber’s jacket revealed that Panhuis was responsible for the crime. 

Panhuis was sentenced to 28 years imprisonment with compulsory TBS treatment for assault, rape, and kidnapping. 👏🏼


So that was our list of the 7 most notorious Dutch criminals! Who knew that this little country had such crazy people running around? We’re just glad that most of these guys are paying, or have paid the price, for their crimes. 

What did you think of these Dutch criminals? Which one shocked (or scared) you the most? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: DutchReview

Nicole Ogden 🇹🇭 🇺🇸
Hailing from the bustling city of Bangkok, Nicole is a Thai/American international student who came to the Netherlands to study linguistics. When she's not reading books or listening to true crime podcasts, she's practising her singing and guitar skills! She is also attempting to pick up the Dutch language (moeilijk).

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