Andrew Osborn








Suspect is animal rights radical - Election Poll to go ahead next week despite killing.

The Guardian, 8th May 2002 20:09


By Andrew Osborn in Rotterdam and Ian Black.

The man arrested over the murder of Pim Fortuyn is a hardcore animal rights activist who appears to have acted alone, it emerged yesterday.

A picture of the suspected killer began to emerge as Wim Kok, the outgoing Dutch prime minister, said next week's elections would go ahead despite the killing.

"Democracy is best served by letting democracy take its course," the Labour leader said. "It puts a heavy burden on our citizens to give a balanced judgment but our citizens can handle it."

The suspect, referred to only as Volkert Van der G by the police, is a 32-year-old white male who is married with a child and who lives in the "Bible belt" town of Hardewijk, about 30 miles east of Amsterdam.

Police said he was a member of an obscure group called Environment Offensive and confirmed they had found ammunition matching that used in the killing of Mr Fortuyn at the suspect's home, together with radical environmental literature.

Chief prosecutor Theo Hofstee said the man - who is due to appear in court today - had been in "full possession of his senses" when arrested. Officers recovered a car they say he used to get to the scene of the crime.

The Dutch security service admitted the man, a vegan anti-fur campaigner, was known to them but said he had not been involved with the law before.

Mr Fortuyn said recently he would sweep away a proposed ban on fur farming.

Sources in Mr Fortuyn's party expressed surprise at the idea that the man had committed murder because of his animal rights beliefs, since the Lijst Fortuyn had barely considered its policies on such matters.

"We don't have a very developed policy on animal rights. We were busy developing it," said Joost Eerdmans, a candidate for Fortuyn's party. "[Fortuyn] had two dogs. They were his life since he didn't have a partner. He loved animals. There is no mistake about that," he added.

Mr Fortuyn did, however, lash out at environmentalists late last year. "The whole environmental policy in the Netherlands has no substance any more. And I'm sick to death of your environmental movement," he was quoted as telling established Dutch green organisation Milieu Defensie (Environmental Defence).

Environment Offensive's website says it is dedicated to fighting the expansion of factory farming in a country which has a large intensive agriculture industry.

"Many animal rights activists act on the assumption that 'nature is good', but human nature also has its dark side," the suspected gunman writes. "Protecting animals is civilising people."

Mr Fortuyn will be buried in northeast Italy where he had a holiday home, a friend said on Tuesday.

"There will be a ceremony in Rotterdam on Friday, and afterwards he will be brought to Provesano, where there will be a second funeral," Bruno Ambrosio said.

Politicians across Europe yesterday condemned the killing.

"I completely condemn this kind of violence," said Romano Prodi, the president of the European commission. "This is against the spirit of Europe."

The most likely medium-term effect will be to persuade parties of the centre to take more seriously immigration and related issues.