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20-Year Prison Term In Kidnap-Murder Of Dutch Retail Tycoon

July 15, 1988

HAARLEM, Netherlands (AP) _ A Dutch court Thursday sentenced an unemployed management consultant to 20 years in prison and indefinite psychiatric treatment for the kidnap-murder of a Dutch grocery tycoon.

Ferdi Elsas, 45, was found guilty of kidnapping Gerrit Jan Heijn, vice- president of the multimillion-dollar Ahold retail concern, shooting him in the head and throwing his body into a forest grave the same day, last Sept. 9. The court also found Elsas guilty of extortion.

It was not immediately disclosed whether Elsas would appeal the verdict.

Ahold, with more than 600 stores the biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, also owns the Giant Food and Bi-Lo supermarkets in the United States.

Heijn’s family paid about $4 million in cash and diamonds for his release. Most of the ransom was recovered after Elsas’ arrest April 6.

″You have without any compassion killed your victim ... who has never done you any harm,″ Court President C. Terwee told Elsas in the packed courtroom in this city 14 miles west of Amsterdam.

A forensic psychiatrist told the court at the trial that Elsas was bearing only limited responsibility for his deeds at the time of the kidnapping.

Noting, however, that the psychiatrist warned that Elsas ″might again mount such a reckless operation in the future,″ the court also confined Elsas indefinitely to an institution for the criminally insane.

Heijn, who was 56 at the time of his abduction, was seized at gunpoint outside his home in one of Haarlem’s affluent suburbs.

When Heijn’s relatives demanded a sign of life from the kidnap victim last October, Elsas mailed them Heijn’s little finger. Elsas had severed it immediately after the killing and kept it in a refrigerator at his home in a small village a few miles north of Amsterdam, he testified.

During his trial, Elsas claimed that the motive for the abduction, which he said he had planned as a ″military operation,″ had been to ease his financial problems.

Elsas’ arrest came after the discovery in January of a 250-guilder note from the ransom, which surfaced in an Amsterdam supermarket close to his house.

After a months-long police stake-out of the supermarket, Elsas spent another 250-guilder note there, and was taken into custody shortly after. Elsas’ wife and two teenage children, who were taken into custody at the time, were later released without charge.

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