Wim had. One Sunday morning, a driver picked me up by a canal in the center of Amsterdam, and we drove to the apartment building where Sonja lives. Astrid greeted us at the door. She had arranged to have lunch with her family, and had invited me to join her.
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Sonja presided in the kitchen. She has honey-blond hair, a deep tan, a quiet smile, and, like Astrid, a tendency to dress in black. The apartment was spotless and furnished in white; sunlight filtered through closed blinds. Astrid is surprisingly forthright about the fact that Sonja continues to live on the proceeds of the kidnapping. Pastries and little cubes of cheese were passed around.
He reminded me that he was three years old—and in the car—the first time that men tried to kill his father, and nine years old when Cor was murdered. Richie could have slipped into a life of crime himself. As the nephew of Wim Holleeder and the son of Cor van Hout, he was underworld royalty.
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Instead, he did what Astrid had hoped to do before the Heineken kidnapping: he left for the United States on an athletic scholarship, playing tennis at the University of San Francisco. After college, he returned to Amsterdam and set up a business as a personal trainer. But he harbored deep resentment of his uncle, he told me. Still love. Several months after the assassination attempt, Cor returned from hiding in France and bought a villa in the Netherlands. Wim pressed Astrid and Sonja for details on where it was, but they resisted, having promised Cor to keep his location secret.
At the same time, it was anguishing to revisit some of these memories. Sonja did not say much but hovered near the table, refilling my coffee and making sure that everyone had enough to eat.
For years, she told me, Wim worried that someone might hide an incendiary device in his car. So whenever he wanted to drive somewhere he instructed Sonja to go out and start the engine for him. Wim denies this. Finally, in , they confided in each other and devised a plan. They asked Peter de Vries, who had become a trusted friend, if they should approach the authorities as potential witnesses. He urged caution. But Astrid would not abandon the idea. She was almost uniquely positioned to supply such proof, and, as an attorney, she was intimately acquainted with the rules of evidence under Dutch criminal law.
She worried that if she and Sonja took the risk of becoming witnesses it would end up being their word against his. But what if they could surreptitiously record him talking in the unfiltered and brutal fashion in which he spoke to them? Astrid Holleeder in She and her siblings grew up in the Jordaan, in central Amsterdam.
Her father worked at the nearby Heineken brewery. Astrid started researching hidden microphones. Initially, she hid a small, wireless, voice-activated microphone in her bra. Wim was so distrustful that he was not above searching his sisters: she had seen him rifling through her drawers and going through her mail.see url
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In January, , she began wearing the wire on their walks. This worked, and she supplied Sonja with similar equipment and coached her on how to use it. The sisters were convinced that if Wim discovered their betrayal he would fly into a rage and beat one or both of them to death. Astrid chuckled. By the time the sisters started recording Wim, he had few confidants left. In the tabloids, he continued to play the part of the raffish bad boy. But in private conversations with Astrid and Sonja he revealed that he was consumed by paranoia and hostility.
He was fixated on money and, in particular, on what was left of the Heineken ransom. To Wim, the settlement suggested that Sonja was sitting on a much larger sum. Nobody gets to bawl me out. She is divorced, with two small children. She and her mother embraced.
With only nineteen years between them, they are very close, but Miljuschka told me that it was refreshing to see Astrid in person, because these days they speak mostly on FaceTime. Miljuschka is a former model who now hosts a popular Dutch cooking show. When Astrid decided to turn on Wim, she discussed the possible consequences with Miljuschka.
But Miljuschka endorsed the idea. By deciding to testify, we are ready to die. He can find me if he wants to. I saw this strong woman being abused by her brother. As we were talking, I was distracted by a stranger who had suddenly appeared in the doorway: a bald man, dressed in black, with squishy facial features. I half stood, my heart racing. Then everyone burst out laughing, and I flushed with embarrassment as Astrid, striding across the room, pulled off an intricate latex mask.
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In the summer of , a philosophy professor in upstate New York, Linda Patrik, sat down for a difficult conversation with her husband, a social worker named David Kaczynski. She asked him, gently, if it had ever occurred to him that his brother, Ted, might be the terrorist known as the Unabomber.
Initially, David was dubious. David began to investigate, however, and came to suspect that his wife was right. He approached the authorities, and in April, , Ted was arrested. David attended the subsequent court hearings, in which Ted pleaded guilty to numerous killings and was given a quadruple life sentence. Throughout the proceedings, Ted refused to look at him. David had been anguished about his decision. Many people, faced with such a test, would side with family. Antigone, in the tragedy by Sophocles, argues that loyalty to her brother trumps the laws of Thebes. During the years when the Boston hood James Whitey Bulger was responsible for at least eleven murders, his brother, Billy, served as the president of the Massachusetts State Senate, but he never turned Whitey in.
Cases in which a witness voluntarily reports on a sibling are rare. But Ted never has. In December, , Wim was arrested and charged with the murder of gangland associates. The police had given Astrid and Sonja emergency buttons, which they could press if they needed help.
They had guided Wim into making a series of important legal admissions.
But, by releasing to the press some recordings of their conversations with him, they also radically upended the public image of the Nose. There was nothing huggable about the thug who screamed at members of his family and threatened to murder them. Astrid had started writing not so much to publish anything as to create an honest record of her story for Miljuschka, in case something happened to her. It was just a cascade of vivid fragments—van Gelderen would have to turn it into a book.
Van Gelderen edited the book in secrecy, and arranged for it to be printed outside the Netherlands, lest the manuscript leak. And, even though Astrid was preparing to testify in the mega-trial against Wim, she elected not to inform her government handlers, much less the prosecution, that she was about to release a memoir.
Do you want to have a party? Van Gelderen threw a party anyway. He knew a hot commodity when he saw one. Van Gelderen understands the theatre of spectacle, and he has cannily capitalized on the intrigue surrounding his author. When everyone was seated, Astrid strode in. Astrid vividly recounts the sadism of her father, who, among other cruelties, demanded that his children finish every bit of food on their plates. One night, Astrid was forced to eat so much that she vomited.
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They stop the car and walk a safe distance away, in case it is bugged. Astrid possesses a similar flair. And I will rest only when he is gone.
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