THE HAGUE - Two men were killed in an attack on the Westeinde in The Hague. It is the British Ambassador Sir Richard Sykes (58) and his personal assistant Charles Straub (19) The Hague. There is speculation that the IRA involvement, Irish Republican Army, behind the attack, but there are hardly evidence. In all embassies in the city's flag is at half-mast.

The victim was around 09:00 hour just got in the car, when the attack took place. From a statement by the driver, which like the secretary remained unharmed, was first shot from distance. He thereafter has locked the doors. The two gunmen came closer and have a short distance of several shots fired.

Assistant Straub was still outside the car, because he just had the door shut for ambassador. He was also hit twice. Sykes was definitely hit four times, three times in the chest and once in the head. The driver is then immediately drove to the Westeinde Hospital. Straub was severely wounded in the courtyard of the ambassador's residence.

He was shortly afterwards taken to hospital. Both victims were still alive several hours, but deceased at eleven o'clock in the morning to brain.

British media about the touch:


a few hours later gave a press conference at the British Embassy building on the Lange Voorhout. Secretary Alyson Bailes has thereby issued a brief statement.  

Clearly excited after all the events told Bailes from a note on the attack. "We had just got into the car and I was just next to the ambassador back, when the attack took place. "

"A sort of instinct kept in my bag for my head to protect myself from the flying glass. So I have not actually seen what happened. Only when the driver drove off, I realized that the ambassador was hit and he was unconscious. "

(Alyson Bailes, Het Parool, 23-03-1979)

The driver of the car did not explain Sykes give to the press.


Sykes was two years ambassador to Netherlands. He stood known as one of the leading diplomats in The Hague. He also had received several awards in WWII.

In previous years he worked at the embassies in Athens, Santiago, Peking, Nanking, Washington and Brussels. He was also ambassador Cuba.


Sykes was specialized in security measures embassy staff abroad. In a special study, he concluded the security of diplomats often inadequate.

At the press conference was told that hardly security measures were taken around the Ambassador. There was no monitoring presence and his car, Rolls Royce, was not armored. Also the driver of the car in unarmed.

Embassy spokesman Roger Hervey told that this was never a problem, until today. "He had no enemies to fear. There's never gotten a serious threat against him. Not write, not by phone, never!”, writes Het Parool.

This article continues below this advertisement


According Hervey is completely unclear who is behind the is stop. "As far as Sir Richard is never at a controversial case involved. We have absolutely no idea what has prompted ", He told the press conference.

It is widely speculated that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) behind the attack. A few days ago, the terrorist group announced that there will be more attacks. The attack on the British ambassador has not yet claimed. A spokesman for the IRA denies involvement, but does not rule out an autonomous group behind the attack is.

Yet there is already a link between Sykes and the IRA. Three years ago examined the ambassador on behalf of the British government's murder by ambassador Christopher Ewart-Biggs. He was killed in a bomb attack.

A team of 25 police is put on the case. Over there also two officers at Scotland Yard, because "any British Wallpaper '. Yet this does not mean that the police only focuses on the IRA involvement in the case, leaves a spokesman said know.


The parliament has responded shocked at the death of the ambassador. Van der Klaauw Foreign Minister has his condolences transferred to the wife of the ambassador.

"The government is horrified over this violent and cowardly attack ", Wiegel was Minister of the Interior know.

Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard have a telegram also sent their participation Lady Sykes. Also There was a telegram to Queen Elizabeth.

Hoe ging het verder?

The attack 22 maart 1979 never officially claimed.  Yet were the Dutch and the British Authorities believe that the Provisional Irish Republican Army, an offshoot IRA, was behind the attack. The identity of the gunmen was never outdated.

Sir Richard Sykes was 26 maart 1979 cremated in Den Hedge. One day Charles Straub was buried later in the Hague Cemetery St. barbara.

There was still an official memorial service, a few days later on. It was Princess Beatrix, Prince Claus, Prime Minister Van Agt and the UK Owen Minister of Foreign Affairs present.

After the attack, security measures were implemented, That nota bene had been drawn by Sykes himself.

In 1990 there was another attack by the IRA in Netherlands. When four Australian tourists in Roermond were under fire. Two of them lost their. The gunmen thought to the British soldiers used to go, who had traveled a day in Netherlands.


Het Parool - 23-03-1979 – No trace murder of ambassador

NRC Handelsblad - 23-03-1979 – Moordbrigade examines death Sykes

Het Vrije Volk - 23-03-1979 – British detectives help research

The Telegraph - 23-03-1979 – British diplomat trace Murderers

Volkskrant – 16-03-2009 – Blood in the Netherlands by foreign conflict

Wikipedia – Richard Sykes

Author: Dave Datema

published: 22-03-1979

story number: 89