Mr. Heineken, Sir. It is over. That is how I translate the title of Gert van Beek‘s excellent book “Meneer Heineken, het is voorbij.”
Much has been written about the Heineken & Doderer kidnapping. However, this is the first work written by a police officer. It shows the reader exactly how police found the kidnapped duo, how they investigated and analysed the kidnappers, and prepared for the worst.
TV and Hollywood are responsible for many police related myths. Some we like and some have given us a distorted view. In the movies there is always this epic battle at the end from good versus evil. One cop starts to take the investigation into their own hands, disregards their superiors to “go it alone.” Alas, real police work is team work. Anyone who doubts that should spend some time volunteering at their local police department!
Gert van Beek describes in excruciating detail how the police went from being reactive (the kidnapping had taken place) to being proactive (anticipating the kidnappers next move based on forensic test results and good old-fashioned police work).
The book opens with a short setting of the scene. It is late November 1983, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. On Nov 9, 1983, Heineken and his driver Doderer were kidnapped. Three weeks went by where police prepared for their rescue, monitoring known criminals, being frustrated with the media, and consoling both the Heineken and Doderer families.
Under immense pressure from the media (if you do not know who Alfred Heineken is read this), a special team was formed to collaborate and make sure that Heineken and Doderer returned safely. It combined all ranks of officers and teamed technicians with detectives. Instant exchange of information was the result.
Police found out who the five kidnappers were but the exact holding place of the kidnapped duo, was uncertain. They had their suspicion though. At the time that teams prepared to storm that building, multiple police teams throughout the Netherlands were on stand-by. As soon as the all clear was given e.g. Heineken and Doderer were found, those teams would arrest various people from the five kidnappers’ circles of friends and family.
Police had to reconstruct the kidnapping. There were eyewitnesses to the kidnapping but their statements contradicted each other. The first vehicle used by the kidnappers was found. That vehicle did not give many fingerprints. It was either wiped clean or, the users always wore gloves. Items were left behind that at first caused a gasping reaction. Uzi’s were found. Were these terrorists?
The manner in which they had prepared for the kidnapping and their escape route told police the kidnappers had done their homework. There had been some high profile kidnappings before in the Netherlands (such as Toos van der Valk) so the kidnappers had access to the how-to and mistakes made by others. They just needed to read the papers …
When the ransom note arrived it was clear that the kidnappers were playing the power game. They demanded the ransom in four currencies but did not list the total amount. Find out for yourself, they seemed to say. After making a tally the amount was Fl 34.650.000 guilder (the Dutch currency before the Euro). The kidnappers also demanded the use of code names in further communications. For themselves, they had chosen “de adelaar” e.g. the eagle. The police was labelled “the haas” e.g. the hare. When the ransom money was ready for delivery a message had to appear in the newspaper’s personal ads under the category “congratulations.” Another ploy to humiliate and show everyone that they were in charge.
Reading the book, you see how much has changed in the past decades. The telephone was still analog and not digital. The ransom note was typed. To get an expert to analyze the font and possibly learn something about the type writer evidence had to send by mail or in this case, police traveled abroad to meet with the expert!
The team expanded as the investigation progressed. Germany got involved due to the type writer system. Belgium was alerted to make sure that Dutch police could cross borders without delay. Peter Cheeny, a former Special Air Forces Major/crisis manager, joined the team and gave Dutch police valuable information: delay paying the ransom money. If you pay too fast they may demand more or, they could refuse to give up Heineken and Doderer. Another concern was that fast pay off would set a precedent for the future. If kidnappers knew that ransom money will come fast if you attack a captain of industry, it could open a floodgate of crimes.
The description of the liberation is insightful as well. Heineken and Doderer were found alive. To make sure that both would immediately realize that the ordeal was really over police came prepared.
Both Heineken and Doderer were addressed as “Sir.” Gert van Beek brought items from home to show both Heineken and Doderer that they were really free. For Doderer, they brought his favourite candy. For Heineken, they brought his favourite cigars.
The book also describes the psychological effects of this crime. The author shows the reader how both Heineken and Doderer passed the time, under which circumstances they had to live, and how they kept their sanity. He also describes the differences in pressure for the Doderer family and the Heineken family as well as the effects this crime had on the entire police corps. Photographs are included.
In 2011, the movie “the Heineken Kidnapping” came out. Another version will come out this year entitled “Kidnapping Freddy Heineken.” This book by Gert van Beek is an excellent preparation for that movie. There is however one problem: there is no English translation of this book yet.
This excellent book that gives insight in police work is a must read for all those interested in investigations and comparative research. If Heineken and Doderer were kidnapped a few decades later the investigation would have been completely different. It is eye-opening to see what technology we had then (e.g. no TV’s in offices, no cell phones, no digital forensics related to mobile devices, the size of GPS/trackers, etc) and what we have now.
I was particularly interested in the parts were van Beek described how they trained the policemen who were selected to deliver the ransom money. The kidnappers had demanded that they be law enforcement. Another way to humiliate police. The choices police had to make were cruel. Those who deliver the ransom money could end up dead as they make contact with the criminals.
I highly recommend this book and will let you know if I see an English translation. If you are interested in this book as well and again, this is the only book about the Heineken/Doderer kidnapping written by a cop, contact van Beek’s publisher! I already did.