Dutch Mount Massive Media Blitz Seeking Clues In Kidnap Case
BLOEMENDAAL, Netherlands (AP) _ Frustrated by their inability to solve the kidnapping of a well-known tycoon, police disclosed leads and played a tape of one suspect’s voice in an unprecedented three-hour appeal on television.
The broadcast reflected the nation’s shock over the kidnapping of grocery magnate Gerrit Jan Heijn, missing since Sept. 9 and now presumed dead.
The kidnappers, who mailed one of Heijn’s fingertips to his company, refused to release him after receiving a multimillion-dollar ransom payment. The family communicated with the kidnappers through coded classified ads.
Heijn has been a household name in the Netherlands for decades, and the Albert Heijn grocery chain is the nation’s largest.
Until recently, heavy security was unknown for public officials in the Netherlands, including members of the government, and police are concerned the unsolved case could lead to more kidnappings in this affluent nation.
Ahold, the multinational company where Heijn serves as vice president, used the broadcasts to announce a $550,000 reward for information in the case.
The broadcast included a 45-minute special edition of a television show run by the Justice Ministry on crime fighting, an hourlong live news conference conducted by police and several news programs devoted to the kidnapping.
More than 400 tips were received at a police crisis center in Bloemendaal in the three hours after the broadcast began, police said.
Heijn was kidnapped after he left his home in Bloemendaal, a plush suburb of the western Dutch city of Haarlem, to drive to a dental appointment.
On Oct. 14, after the family demanded a sign that he was alive, Ahold received the tip of one of Heijn’s finger through the mail.
Since the abduction, the kidnappers have communicated with the family via typed letters mailed from various locations in the Netherlands, and the family answered with coded messages in the classified sections of Dutch newspapers.
Police say the last letter from the kidnappers was received Dec. 11.
Justice Minister Frits Korthals Altes conceded in a letter Monday to Parliament that Heijn ″must now be assumed″ dead.
Theo Bot, a prosecutor assigned to the case, told The Associated Press that the hunt for Heijn’s kidnappers was now the first priority because of ″the shock that the abduction of Mr. Gerrit Jan Heijn has caused in society.″
A key element in that shock was ″the feeling of insecurity ... (the fact) that as a captain of industry ... you have to take complete security measures if you don’t want to run the risk of being kidnapped,″ Bot said.
Until Monday, the Heijn family had demanded an information blackout on the investigation, and had refused to allow police to publicize various details on the kidnapping for fear of endangering Heijn.
However, hopes that he remained alive have faded as the case dragged on, especialy since the other three kidnappings of prominent Dutch people in recent years were solved within weeks and the victims freed in good health.
During the TV show organized by the Justice Department, investigators asked the public for information on a number of possible suspects, automobiles and small objects believed connected with the abduction.
Police also played a tape they described as the voice of an unidentified suspect in the case. They did not say how the tape was obtained.
The objects included Heijn’s glasses which were mailed to Ahold on Oct. 8 after the family rejected a demand for 1,000 high-grade diamonds totalling 700 carats, which police said would take up to six months to collect.
On September 30, the kidnappers demanded the diamonds plus $4.6 million in cash, Henk Munting, a police official, told reporters.
Although $250,000 in cash and 975 carats of diamonds of lesser quality worth $4.3 million were delivered to the kidnappers in a Nov. 27 ransom drop, delivery of a similar sum later that morning fell through.
Kees Sietsma, an Amsterdam police commissioner who helped free kindapped beer tycoon Alfred Heineken and his chauffeur in 1983, said chances of Heijn’s kidnappers being in the Netherlands or abroad were considered about equal.
Ahold, which also owns the Bi-Lo and Giant Food stores in the United States, said it would advertise its $550,000 reward offer in foreign newspapers, but it did not say in which countries the ads would run.