Suspect in highway chase involving journalist released due to lack of evidence
Authorities released the 36-year-old Utrecht man who was arrested last Thursday on the A2 over an alleged threatening situation involving crime reporter John van den Heuvel. The suspect, reportedly Mourad O., remains a formal suspect in the case, but there is insufficient evidence to detain him any longer, said the Public Prosecution Service (OM) on Twitter.
The “suspicious situation seems to be coincidental,” the OM stated. The man was arrested on Thursday afternoon on the highway between Maarssen and Breukelen. Van den Heuvel said soon after that the police action had to do with his personal safety. Last Friday, the examining magistrate at a courthouse in Amsterdam remanded the suspect into custody for three days while the investigation was to continue. There does not seem to be sufficient evidence to extend that pre-trial detention, said a spokesperson for the OM.
During the hearing, the OM said that O. was suspected of preparing a crime that carries a prison sentence of eight years or more. The police investigation is ongoing, the OM spokesperson said on Sunday. The man is therefore still formally suspected of planning a crime that punishable by a lengthy prison sentence if successful, the spokesperson confirmed.
On the Saturday broadcast of TV program RTL Boulevard, Van den Heuvel said that his security detail believed he was being followed by a car. According to the crime journalist, a balaclava and several telephones, including an encrypted telephone, were found in the suspect's car.
The suspect's lawyer, Veerle Hammerstein, said on Saturday that her client was not aware that Van den Heuvel was in the car. According to her, he was driving too fast and "maybe too close to cars". Her client stated from the start that he was commuting from work, Hammerstein said. He pulled over immediately after police indicated they wanted him to stop his vehicle. He "cooperated with the investigation", the lawyer said, adding that nothing criminal was found in his car.
He was investigated as part of the extensive Marengo Process, a serious of assassinations and attempted murders allegedly orchestrated by suspected crime boss Ridouan Taghi, according to various media. He was interrogated as a witness during the investigation in the spring of 2021, at which time he invoked his right to remain silent.
Van den Heuvel has been under guard in connection with his work for De Telegraaf and other media outlets. At the end of 2018, he was forced to suspend his work for three months with RTL Boulevard due threats of violence. He appears on the show to discuss various criminal cases.
He also did not appear on the show for some time after the murder of his colleague, Peter R. de Vries, last summer. De Vries was gunned down in July in Amsterdam shortly after walking out of a studio used by RTL Boulevard.
Reporting by ANP