Read by Naomi Frederick
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Astrid Holleeder is in hiding because she had the courage to write this book. Her brother Willem Holleeder, best known for his involvement in the 1983 kidnapping of the CEO and chairman of Heineken brewing company, is one of the most notorious criminals in contemporary history. For decades, Wim ruled over his family mafia-style, threatening death if any of them betrayed him. Astrid and her sister, Sonja, watched as their brother eliminated anyone who got in his way, and they lived in terror of inciting his rage, unable to protect even their own young children from his violence. Trained as a lawyer, Astrid served as her brother’s unwilling confidante.
Now, she’s turning the tables on him.
Charged for his involvement in multiple assassinations, including that of his former partner and brother-in-law, Holleeder is finally on trial for murder, all due to the shocking testimony of his own family.
An international bestseller that has sold more than 500,000 copies in Holland, this stunning, edge-of-your seat memoir chronicles Astrid’s terrifying experience working as a double agent, preserving her brother’s trust just so that she could get enough information to put him away for life.
Judas is the intimate account of Astrid’s deeply personal betrayal, set against the backdrop of their haunting family history and the astonishing world of the criminal underground.
The First Attempt on
ON MARCH 27, 1996, MY SISTER SONJA HOLLEEDER AND HER HUSBAND, Cor van Hout, picked up their son Richie from kindergarten. Cor parked his car in front of their home on Deurloostraat, and they stayed in the car, laughing with Richie, who was singing along with his favorite song, “Funiculì Funiculà” by Andrea Bocelli, in the back seat, leaning forward between his parents.
My mother just happened to be standing at their kitchen window when a man wearing a dark coat walked toward Cor’s parked car. At the same time, Sonja looked at Cor and noticed someone approaching in the background. At ﬁrst she thought he was going to ask for directions, but the determined look on his face made her uneasy. He approached the car on Cor’s side.
Through the window, Sonja looked straight into his face, and it’s still etched into her memory. A yellow-brown face, with lots of wrinkles.
“Cor, what does he want?” she shouted. Cor looked to the left.
Before he could answer, the man pointed a gun at Cor and started shooting. At that moment, Cor dove aside to cover.
Sonja started screaming. Richie was in the back seat of the car; had he been hit? Had Cor been hit? She opened her car door and tumbled out. To prevent herself from getting shot, she crawled on her knees to the back door, opened it, and pulled Richie out. With him in her arms, she ran inside. The door was already open as my mother had rushed out to help her.
Cor had been hit several times. He staggered out to chase the shooter, but, unhinged by his injuries, he started walking in the wrong direction. After he had made it a couple hundred yards, the neighbors helped him back to the house.
Numb and bleeding profusely, Cor just sat there in the stairwell of Number 22 until the ambulance arrived.
I was in my office on Willem Pijperstraat when I got a call on my cell phone. My mom was yelling into the phone.
“Are they alive?” I shouted.
“Yes, they’re alive, but Cor was hit. Come over now, please!”
“Is it bad, Mom?”
“I don’t know. They took Cor away in an ambulance.”
In a panic, I closed my office and drove to Deurloostraat, where Sonja was waiting for me. She opened the door and fell into my arms, crying, “Cor was hit everywhere!”
“Where?” I asked. “Where was he hit? Will he survive?”
“Yeah, they took him to VU Hospital. He was hit in his arm, shoulder, and back, and one bullet shattered his jaw. But he’ll live; he’s in surgery right now.”
“What about Rich? Is Richie okay?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “he’s upstairs. He wasn’t hit. Thank God he doesn’t really understand what happened. Please act as normal as you can.”
“Of course.” She was badly shaken and hyperventilating.
We went upstairs, where Richie and my mother were. He was playing on the ﬂoor. Luckily the child hadn’t seen Cor’s bloody injuries. Sonja had pulled him from the car quickly enough and taken him inside right away.
“Hi, honey,” I said to him. “Are you having fun playing?”
He looked up and, seeing me, exclaimed, “Assie, Assie, ﬂames! Flames!”
I pulled him onto my lap and asked him, “What about the ﬂames? Go on and tell Auntie.”
He was just two and a half years old, and he told me in his own way what had happened. A really naughty man had thrown rocks at the car and there were ﬂames. That was his version, and we wanted to keep it that way.
“Such a naughty man! But he’s gone now, sweetie. Daddy chased him away.”
Sonja asked, “Could you pick Francis up from school? She doesn’t know yet and I want to have her with me. I’m not sure what other crazy stuff might go down.”
“I’ll go over right now.”
I drove to Francis’s school and told the janitor I was her aunt and she had to come with me to the hospital.
From her classroom, Francis had already seen me standing in the hall and was startled. The janitor went in and whispered to the teacher, and Francis came out.
“Come on, honey,” I said. As we walked down the hallway I told her what had happened, trying to remain calm.
She stood still and grabbed hold of me, her face turning pale. “Is Daddy dead, As?” she asked, her voice trembling.
“No, but he’s been hurt pretty badly. He’s in the hospital. Mommy and Rich are ﬁne. Come on, let’s go home.”
It wasn’t long before Sonja got a call from the hospital. Cor was out of surgery.
“Are you coming with me to see him?” she asked me. “We can leave the children with Mom. I don’t want to drive. I still feel pretty shaky.”
“I’ll drive,” I said. “I want to see him.”
We walked to the car, but halfway there, Sonja started trembling. I got into my car but she kept standing there.
“Get in,” I said.
I got out and walked over to her. “What’s the matter?”
“I’m scared. I keep seeing it, that man walking up to us, the sound of the glass breaking, the shooting. Cor covered in blood. I can’t get in,” she said.
“Come on, Son, you’ll have to. You better drive yourself now, right away. Otherwise you won’t do it ever again. Come on, now—you can do this!”
I opened the door and ordered her to get in. “You’re right,” she said. “I have no choice.”
At the hospital, we walked straight to Cor’s ward. Police stood guarding the door to his room. Cor was just waking up from surgery; the bullets had been removed from his body, and his lower jaw had been wired shut.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
Cor smiled faintly and stuck his thumb in the air. Speaking was prohibited this soon after jaw surgery, but he couldn’t have said anything anyway, not with the cops right outside the door.
He gestured about Richie.
“Rich is ﬁne,” Sonja said. “It’s a miracle he wasn’t hit. You just get out of here.”
Rage ﬂamed up in Cor’s eyes, and he made a gun gesture; he wanted revenge.
We wanted to know if Cor had any idea where this had come from, so we would know where we stood and what measures to take, if necessary. Sonja and I stood on either side of his bed, staring at him, waiting for an answer.
Cor looked both of us in the eye and shook his head repeatedly. He didn’t have a clue.
“I guess we’d better not sleep at home for a while,” Sonja said. Cor shook his head once again.
“Okay,” Sonja said.
We sat by Cor’s bed for a bit, but he was tired and his eyes kept falling shut.
“You get some sleep. We’ll be back later,” Sonja said.
When we got outside, we took a stroll so we could talk privately, away from the police. “Do you believe Cor really doesn’t know who’s behind this? Or is he just not telling us?” I asked Sonja, knowing full well that women in our situation are never told anything.
“No,” Sonja said. “In this case, that would be too dangerous. He actually doesn’t know—otherwise he’d tell us from what direction we should expect danger.”
“You don’t have a clue, either?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but I do have a feeling.”
“What is it?”
“Never mind. I can’t tell you when I don’t know for sure.”
“You know you can tell me anything, right?” I asked, slightly offended.
“Nah, leave it. I just don’t feel comfortable accusing someone just like that. Can we please change the subject now?”
“Sure,” I said.
“But I’m not going back home. I’m too scared. For all I know, they’ll come back,” Sonja said. “Can I stay at your place with the kids?”
“Of course—we’ll go get your stuff right now.”
Back at home, I sat down next to Sonja on the couch and finally took a good look at my sister. I noticed tiny feathers falling out of a hole in her coat. I put my ﬁnger in and picked out something hard. I was holding a bullet in my hand.
“Looks like you were hit after all,” I said.
“Really? See, I told you I have a sore back!”
“Let me have a look,” I said, and I lifted up her sweater. An abrasion caused by a grazing shot ran across her entire back.
“I can see why you were in pain,” I said. “You were hit. But it’s superﬁcial.”
Sonja had been extremely lucky. When Cor ducked to shield her, he changed the bullet’s direction. The bullet had entered his body ﬁrst and, after leaving it, had grazed her back. Cor’s body had slowed the bullet down enough that it came to a stop in the sleeve of Sonja’s coat.
Cor had quite literally caught the bullet for her.
“I could have been dead, Astrid,” Sonja said.
“You could all have been dead, Son,” I replied.
Just thinking about the danger my family had been in, I was engulfed by rage—what dirtbag did this? What cowardly dog of a man would shoot at a woman and a little kid?
Over time, Cor recovered, under the watchful eye of the police in the hallway. It was their duty to protect every citizen, but they weren’t too keen on this particular citizen, a notorious criminal who’d undoubtedly brought this upon himself. As for Cor, he wasn’t too keen on protection from the people who were once after him.
“These fuckers, they think it’s funny when I get scared shitless every time they cock their weapons,” he said, smiling.
As soon as he could, he left the hospital and vanished to France with Sonja, Richie, and Francis. Cor’s best friend and our brother, Willem, nicknamed Wim, went along with them, bringing his girlfriend, Maike.
For protection, Cor brought his friend Mo, an Afghani man he knew from prison, down to meet them. The two had kept in touch and because of the war in his homeland, Mo was used to violent situations. He came armed, ready to protect Cor and his family if necessary.
They made their ﬁrst stop at Hotel Normandy in Paris. From there, they continued on their way south to the Hotel Les Roches in the village of Lavandou on the Côte d’Azur.
Cor and Wim discussed every possible motive for the attack over and over. Things between the two of them were becoming tense, and they’d gotten into an argument more than once.
After a few weeks, Wim and Maike came back to Amsterdam to ﬁnd out what was going on.
A short time later, Wim brought back the message that Sam Klepper and John Mieremet, two seriously bad guys they knew from their crime circles, had been behind the murder attempt.
Cor found it hard to imagine. Why would they be after him? He wasn’t involved in any conﬂict with them.
But Wim thought it made sense. He reported that Klepper and Mieremet had demanded that Cor and Wim pay them a million Dutch guilders. The only way to resolve the conﬂict was to pay this amount.
The attack was over, but the danger hadn’t passed yet. It wouldn’t be passing, either, since Cor told Wim right away he didn’t intend to pay anything. He refused to be extorted. This enraged Wim, who said he’d been put under huge pressure in Amsterdam. He had to make sure the money got paid or what happened to Cor would happen to him. Wim claimed that not paying would initiate a war that would end in a bloodbath. Our families would be exterminated without hesitation, all because Cor wouldn’t pay up, because he wanted a war.
Cor still refused to pay. Wim thought he had no choice but to do so.
While this was going on, I ﬂew to meet Sonja and Cor to pick up Francis so I could bring her back to school in Holland.
Sonja picked me up at the airport. “Are you tired?” I asked her.
“Why? Do I look that bad?”
“A little bit,” I said cautiously.
“I guess I do,” she said, and she filled me in about Klepper and Mieremet and the disagreement about paying up. “Now Cor and Wim won’t stop arguing. It’s keeping me up at night.”
“Is Cor scared of what will happen if he doesn’t pay?” I asked.
“No,” Sonja said. “I wish he was. Cor says it’s pointless to give them the money, that they’re at war now anyway. He won’t let his wife and child be shot at like that. Wim claims Cor is to blame for all of it because he gets drunk so often and probably insulted someone.”
“And what is Cor saying?” I asked.
“He thinks Wim should be supporting him instead of giving in to those two like a wuss. They’re in a real ﬁght this time.”
“So the shit has only just hit the fan?”
“I guess so,” Sonja said.
“I know it would be great if you paid up and that were the end of it, but I think Cor is right. Do you believe it will actually end once you pay? Klepper and Mieremet know that Cor knows it was them. There’s no question that they’ll just think he’s waiting for a chance to get back at them. They’ll want to stay ahead of Cor no matter what.”
“That’s what Cor keeps saying,” Sonja said. “He doesn’t understand why Wim’s pushing for the money.”
I could think of a reason, but I kept it to myself.
We drove to Le Lavandou’s harbor, where Cor and Mo were having drinks.
“Good to see you, Cor. That jaw of yours doesn’t look half bad,” I said.
“Come join us, Assie. Have something to eat. We’ve ordered already.”
After joking around a bit about his injuries, Cor said to the others, “Why don’t you guys take a stroll. Assie, you stay here for a minute.”
He looked worried. “Did Sonja tell you yet?”
“Yeah, we know who they are, and that you’re in an argument with Wim.”
“What do you think about all this?” he asked.
“I agree with you. Why should you be shot at, and have to pay on top of it? How does that make any sense? I don’t get Wim, though…nobody ever tells him what to do.”
“Yeah, he’s running to the other side a bit too quick for my liking. Make sure to keep a close eye on Francis when you get home. Keep her away from Wim if you can.”
I had loved Cor as a brother since the day Wim brought him into our home. He treated us and those around him completely differently from the way Wim did. Cor was warm and friendly. Wim was cold and heartless.
I didn’t see why Wim would surrender to the enemy this easily, why he wasn’t backing Cor up, after all they’d gone through together. Even if Cor had done something wrong, what did it matter? We’d never abandoned Wim despite all the misery he caused, had we? Why would he do that to Cor now? Of course, I was aware that supporting Cor could have serious consequences, but what about principles? Surely you wouldn’t have your spouse, or even your sister, shot at and then pretend nothing had happened, right?
It shocked me to think Wim didn’t seem to feel that way.
The next day, I ﬂew back to the Netherlands with Francis and tried my best to keep her away from Wim. Cor moved to a small French farmhouse that lay hidden away in the woods and was rented out as a holiday home. The interior was described as “authentically French,” which turned out to mean outdated and seedy. The outdoor swimming pool was the only thing that ﬁt the description of a holiday home. It was not the kind of place Cor would normally take for a vacation, and at this moment that was crucial. He didn’t want to be anywhere he’d usually go. Nobody could know where he was.
By “nobody,” he meant Wim.
Sonja and Richie were there on and off. One evening, Sonja and Cor were sitting on the terrace outside when Cor said, “If anything should happen to me, I want us and our children to be buried together in a family grave, and I want a horse-drawn carriage.”
Maybe Wim was right—maybe it would be better to pay up, she proposed timidly.
Cor exploded with anger. He took her remark as treason. “Are you going to forsake me, just like him? That Judas! If that’s the way you feel about it, you may as well join your brother, and I’ll never have to see you again!” he yelled.
Sonja was struck by the ferocity of his reaction. She hadn’t meant it that way, she said, she was just worried about his safety and that of the children. What good was money compared to their lives?
Cor remained steady: paying wouldn’t solve anything.
Sonja was stuck between her husband’s will and her brother’s. All she could conclude was that she’d better stay out of it. Cor had always been the one to decide what was best, and she’d leave it to him this time, too.
Cor left for Martin’s Château du Lac, in Genval, Belgium. Sonja kept traveling back and forth, but it was hard to keep up with the kids having to go to school.
Whenever Sonja returned home, Wim would be on her doorstep, asking the same question.
He wanted to know where Cor was staying.
With Cor’s instructions not to tell anyone in mind, Sonja pretended she didn’t know.
My mother called me at seven a.m., which is quite early for her. She usually gets up at eight sharp and starts her daily routine by feeding the cat, making breakfast, taking her heart and blood pressure pills, and giving her daughters a call. The fact that she was calling me this early meant something was wrong.
“Hi, Mom. Up this early?” I asked.
“Yes, I’ve been awake since six thirty. Your darling brother stopped by this morning.”
This seemingly humdrum remark was her way of telling me that, once again, there was a problem with Wim.
“That’s nice,” I replied, thus implying I understood the visit had been anything but nice.
“Are you coming by today? I got you some dried pineapple,” she said, really meaning, Come over now: I have something to tell you and it can’t wait.
“All right, I’ll drop by today,” I said, meaning, I’m coming over right now because I know you need me.
“Good. See you later.”
We’ve been communicating this way since 1983: every conversation is layered, every “regular” interaction harbors a completely different meaning known only to our family. This manner of speaking originates from when Cor and Wim were first identiﬁed as Freddy Heineken’s kidnappers.
Ever since that moment, the Justice Department has put our family under a magnifying glass, and for decades all our phone calls were recorded via wiretap. To communicate safely and without the Justice Department knowing what we were talking about, we developed our family code.
Apart from the veiled language we used with Wim, we had developed our own coded way of discussing him. Just as the authorities were a danger to Wim, Wim was a danger to us.
I drove to my mother’s house. After living for a few years in the southern part of Amsterdam, she had moved back to her old neighborhood, the Jordaan, where we had lived as a family and where my siblings and I grew up. We lived there from my birth in 1965 to when I was fifteen and we moved to the Staatslieden neighborhood. I knew every paving stone around here, from Palmgracht to Westerorten.
The Jordaan used to be a working-class neighborhood, a depressed neighborhood, in fact. Its inhabitants called themselves the Jordanese, a willful bunch wearing their hearts on their sleeves but respecting one another—live and let live. From the seventies on, the neighborhood’s historic character and picturesque looks began to attract young and more highly educated people, and the neighborhood became extremely popular. Many Jordanese disappeared and “outsiders” arrived, but my mother enjoyed living there, still finding a few friends among the people she knew from the old days.
I parked my car on Westerstraat and walked to her house. There she stood, already waiting for me at the door. I was touched at seeing this sweet old lady. She was seventy-eight now, so fragile.
“Hi, Mom,” I said, and kissed her tender wrinkled cheek.
As always, we sat down in the kitchen.
“Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Yes, please,” I said.
She rummaged around the kitchen and put two mugs on the table.
“So, what’s going on? I can tell you’ve been crying. Has Wim been pestering you again?” I asked.
“Very much so. He wants to get himself registered at my address, but I just can’t do that. This is communal housing for the elderly and children are not allowed. If I did it I could get in trouble, I may have to leave my house, and I’d be out on the street. He was outraged when I told him and went off the deep end again. He called me a worthless mother, said that I didn’t do anything for my own child. Child?! He is ﬁfty-six years old!
“I should be ashamed for not even wanting to help my own son. He kept on screaming, so loud I was scared the neighbors would hear. He’s just like his father, just like his father,” she repeated, as if she had to hear it twice to believe it.
She was worn out by the terror that had passed from father to son. Wim had been terrorizing her ever since he was a little boy, and she had always attributed it to his lousy father. That’s why, even in old age, she let him treat her like garbage. That’s why she never abandoned her son, despite the gravity of his crimes, and kept visiting him in prison after his first conviction, hoping he would change, and even after his second conviction for the extortion of several real estate tycoons—after all, he was still her child.
All in all, she visited him in prison about seven hundred and eighty times. Seven hundred and eighty times she waited in line, seven hundred and eighty times she went through security, took her shoes off, and put her things on the belt to be scanned. From 1983 to 1992, when Wim was locked up for the Heineken kidnapping in La Santé Prison in Paris, she traveled a thousand kilometers to France and back every week. After he was extradited to the Netherlands, she visited him here. Nine years in all, and six more years later when he was imprisoned again for several extortions.
“Wouldn’t you like to get some peace and quiet, Mom?” I said, taking her hand.
“I don’t think I ever will,” she sighed.
“You don’t know that. Who knows, maybe he’ll go back inside and never get out.”
“I won’t visit him then,” she said right away. “I’m too old for that. I can’t do it anymore—it’ll be too much for me.” Every visit he humiliated her and blamed her for all
- "A harrowing, courageous account of murder and family...riveting, sensational, unforgettable."—Kirkus (Starred Review)
- "Compulsively readable... [Judas] is not only a fascinating examination of a criminal many American readers will be unfamiliar with, but also a moving and heartbreaking tale of the toll exerted on the families of headline criminals."—Booklist
- "Written from her place in hiding, Judas is Astrid's story of deception, turmoil and -- ultimately -- courage . . . A stark statement about how one familial tie can strangle so many lives."—The Washington Times
- "Written while awaiting her brother's trial, Holleeder's engrossing story reads like the last will and testament of a dead woman walking."—Publishers Weekly
- "Guaranteed, you've never read a memoir like Judas, already a runaway hit in the Netherlands where it was first published. Judas is the story of Astrid Holleeder, the criminal lawyer who decided to testify against her brother, crime kingpin Willem "Wim" Holleeder, knowing it would put her life in grave danger. Holleeder is currently in hiding as she waits to testify. Reading Holleeder's matter-of-fact account of the years leading to this decision gives the uncanny sensation of reading a death wish."—Refinery29
- "A lurid crime story in the form of an intimate domestic drama."—The New Yorker
- On Sale
- Aug 7, 2018
- Hachette Audio