Peter ‘Hurricane’ Smit (43), the kickboxing champion from Dordrecht, did not tolerate injustice. When he stood up for a friend of his’ whose watch had been stolen, he was being trapped and murdered, callously. After his death it becomes obvious how immense popular Smit still is, even though he had quit kickboxing for a long time. His popularity does not just stay in The Netherlands, it reaches to Japan and Thailand as well. He was the first white man ever to beat a Thais world champion knock-out, in his opponent’s ‘own’ stadium. It was a thrilling fight. Smit’s family and his widow Carla Roovers worked together with me to reconstruct the quick life and quick death of this phenomenon.
It is a Monday afternoon, on August 15th, 2005, about half past five, when there is a phone call for Peter Smit. He is in his house in Rotterdam. His girlfriend Carla Roovers is just about to serve dinner. At this moment there are three children in the house. "I could tell by the look on his face that something was totally wrong, I got a strange feeling right away," says Carla later.
She assumes that it has something to do with the remarkable meeting they had had the previous Friday, at cafe De Knipoog in Schiedam. "Peter had an appointment with two men. I had to stay in the car. One of the men was looking outside. He did not look at me at all, which does not happen very often. A blonde woman, sitting in an extraordinary Mercedes sports car; most men usually give a bit of attention to that. But the only thing he was looking for was Peter. I thought that was quite strange."
When the phone rings on that particular Monday afternoon, and Peter gets an unusual look on his face, Carla immediately understands what it is about. "Cor wants to see me," says Peter. Cor P., also known as The Eel, is the man Peter went to see that Friday. It was all about ‘Bart’s little clock’. Cor was the one who took the Rolex watch from Bart, and that is something you should not do to a friend of Peter Smit’s: if you are against his friend, you are against him, and he will do anything to get justice’s victory. Carla does not trust it, but she knows it is useless to warn Peter, he will do whatever he feels is right. Friday afternoon she told him: "You are not going to do business with that idiot, are you?" "No," answered Peter, "but to catch a fly you use syrup, and I’m glad enough that everything works out like this."
When Cor makes the phone call to Peter’s house on that Monday afternoon, he is very close to the house: he will meet Peter in the Zwart Jan street, a couple of hundred meters away. "I was crying, shaking, I knew that everything was going wrong," says Carla, "he took off in the sports car. That was something he did not do very often, it was too noticable. He did not turn his head, or look anywhere else, and he did not take his cell phone with him. Now I think that Peter went to see him so quick because he was afraid that otherwise something might have happened at home, where we had three kids at that moment."
Carla’s bad feeling did not betray her. It is nearly 6 o’ clock when a friend calls her: there has been a shooting, and Carla’s car is right there. Carla: "I knew that everything had gone wrong. A friend had seen Peter driving on the Bergweg, ‘with 200 km per hour’. I drove up there immediately. When I arrived, everything was blocked. The corps chef from Bureau Noord shook my hand. I said: ‘No! No!’ He said: ‘Yes!’ I said: ‘Dead?’ He looked at me: ‘Yes’. I ran towards the place, but someone stopped me. Peter was laying behind a police van. From then on I lost a big part of my memory. A thing I do remember: where he was laying, on the Meidoornsingel, was a sign that said ‘Private road’. I could not help but think of that. It fit him perfectly. Peter would always go his own way."
Carla finds herself back at the police station. She gets to see pictures of the assumed killers, and she picks out the one of Cor P. After this she hides with friends. Cor had said: "If anything happens to this or that person, that blonde girl is dead." But Cor is arrested within a week, along with his cousin Iron P. Both of them deny, and claim they don’t know each other, but there is too much evidence against them.
Five years earlier. Carla works at bar/restaurant ‘Gallery’ when Peter Smit, who is always very present, walks in. He is going through a hard time then; because of his broken ankle he had to give up his sport, and his life is going down hill. He reaches his lowest point whenever he and his friend get caught in the midst of a burglary. Peter gets sent to prison, and the relationship between him and his girlfriend falls apart. The first thing he does when he gets released out of prison is drink a beer in the ‘Gallery’. He immediately is attracted to the pretty blonde girl working at the bar. She is definately his type. "Hey baby, give me a kiss!" he yells. But that is not Carla’s style. "I was afraid of him," she says now. "He said: if not now, then never!’ It ends up to be: not now. It is two weeks later when he gets his kiss.
Now or never
Carla: "He often repeated the ‘if not now, then never’ statement." Their relationship works out very well. Peter has two daughters, Kayleigh and Brandy, from his previous relationship. Together with Carla he has a son, Bradley. There has always been a good contact with his last girlfriend, Nathalie. Carla: "The kids would spend five days in the week at our house. It is ‘Mama Nathalie’ and ‘Mama Carla’. From the beginning on we have been on good terms with each other. I believe: only Peter’s women can do that."
Peter Smit is born in 1961 in Dordrecht. His mother has just been remarried, after she divorced from her first husband. Jan, his step brother, went with his mom. Three more kids are born in the new family. Peter is a special child. Nowadays he would undoubtfully have been diagnosed with ADD. Sister Ella: "His bed had to be attached to the floor. He could never sit or lay still, his bed would move through the entire bedroom." Physically he cannot compete with his brothers and sisters, who are all much bigger than he is. They do protect him, but that does not mean he never gets beaten up. Ella: "He looked just like a girl. Skinny, with blonde, curly hair. When he was about 12 years old, he was a real street prowler. He hung out with the boys from the Zeehaven neighbourhood. There he had to fight for his life."
When Peter is still young, one of his cousins takes him to the karate school of Jan Vleesenbeek(photo), which opens a whole new world for him. This is what he wants, he wants to join in, and in his first fight he breaks a tooth. Proudly he tells everyone that he got that from karate. The stories about Peter draw an image of a person who went pretty far with his pranks. His brothers would often go out to go fishing, but he did not have enough patience for that: he would throw them, and there fishing tools in the water. Brother Jan: "He would not only do that to us, but also to other people who were fishing. He would ask: "Have you caught something yet, sir? Can I take a look in your net?’ And then he would just push those people in the water."
Peter loves animals. He is crazy about horses; no matter how wild they are, he prefers to ride them without a saddle. And, according to him, cows should have more living space. Jan: "One time we were at a camping in Dordrecht, which was bordered next to a field with cows. He opened the fence, and all the cows started walking around over the camping."
Even their own father could not always escape. Jan: "We would hit him on the head, one after the other. He got so extremely mad that he kicked the table, and broke five of his toes. In the hospital he was sitting in a wheel chair, with that one foot pointing forward. We were running around the hallways with him. All of the doors were automatics; they would open right on time if you’d walk up to them. Except for that one door..."
He did not have a lot of contact with his father, but he and his mother were very close. Kickboxing champion Koen Scharrenberg remembers a time when he and Peter and his brother Nico went to visit a discotheque. "There was some kind of riot by the door, I see Peter’s brother ducking away, and all of a sudden their mother walks in, guarded by two porters. She was a big lady, with a deep, loud voice. She said: ‘Where is Nico!’ Apparently the police had come to their house, because they had burgled somewhere. The brother is standing at the bar, she says: ‘If you ever break in to someone’s house again I’ll hit you knock-out!’, and she immediately smacked him in his face. Subsequently, although it took them a while, the porters managed to get her outside."
Also amongst his sports friends he had a special reputation. Boxer Hans Schuurmans: "Whenever Peter was in Thailand in 1992, he had two eyes tattooed on his butt. If we went to sit down somewhere, he would walk away from the table, turn his back at us, pull his pants down and shout: ‘I’m keeping my eyes on you!’ Peter brought about a lot of entertainment."
Kickboxing champion Koen Scharrenberg met Peter Smit in the beginning of the ‘80’s at a Thai-boxing gala in Amsterdam. When Koen Scharrenberg became the coach of the Dutch team in 1983, he wanted to have Peter Smit with him. "He was with me for four years. The most remarkable thing about his way of fighting was the constant action, the extraordinary tempo he had."
In Thailand, Peter Smit is still a legend: he was the first white man ever to beat a Thais world champion knock-out, in that guy’s ‘own’ stadium: the Lupinee Stadium in Bangkok. That was back in 1990. The victim was Changphuak Kiartsongtit, "the Big Elephant". Peter himself considered his fight for the worldchampionship, in 1990 in Tokyo, as the high light of his career. In the tenth round he beat the kickboxing phenomenon Rob Kaman from Amsterdam, who – according to Smit’s friends – had always tried to avoid fighting him.
The fight against Kaman actually came too soon for Smit: he was still recovering. During a fight in a discotheque he was being attacked by two Antillean men. One of them had hit him on his ankle with a tire iron. Brother Jan: "After that they wanted to kill him by hitting him with their car, but Peter could pull himself up on a over pass at the last moment." The two men did not have that much luck, as was found out later. But Peter was walking around on his broken ankle, until he got operated on it in Breda. He was still wearing bandages when he was challenged to fight against Kaman. Jan: "When he got home he took an iron saw and took off the bandages. It never completely healed."
Rotterdam, spring of 2005. One of Peter’s close friends, Bart, is having an arguement with Cor P., who stole a Rolex-watch from him. When Peter hears about it he tells Bart to report it to the police. Bart is in doubt whether he should do that or not, but after Peter keeps on telling him to go, he finally reports the robbery. Subsequently Bart is being threatened: he has to take back the report. A couple of months pass by before Bart and Peter see each other again. Peter says: "You still don’t have your watch back?" Bart says: "I don’t want that thing anymore", but Peter starts making phone calls. Carla: "Everybody was saying: ‘Don’t get involved in this, these people are dangerous’ but when we saw them, we laughed about it: is that them?"
Initially they just talk over the phone, but on Friday, August 12th, Peter is asked to come to a specific place. He says: "I am not going out there". They arrange a meeting in cafe De Knipoog in Schiedam, where Peter will wait for Cor. Carla: "We knew that it was a guy with long black hair. Peter told me: ‘Whatever happens, stay in the car with the doors locked.’ Peter did not know Cor either."
While Peter walks inside, Carla looks over and sees someone who had apparently come with Cor. "I could see him giving some kind of signal with his thumb. He was watching Peter. Later he appeared to be Iron P., Cor’s cousin, who was observing the place. He was looking in every direction, except for mine."
Cor P. is the first to walk out of the cafe. He walks up to the car and leans against the car door. "He looked me in the eyes very deeply. In the meanwhile some of Peter’s friends had gone into the cafe. Cor probably thought it was too crowded in the place to do anything. Peter came outside and yelled at Cor: "What are you doing near my girl?" Cor said: "Let’s be best friends now. We can make some money in the future." Peter said: "First give me that watch back."
The second time they meet, Monday afternoon, is fatal for Peter. He is driving, while Cor P. sits beside him. Someone witnesses their arrival at the Meidoornsingel. Both men get out of the car. There is some shouting and yelling, and suddenly a black man, wearing white gloves and a black coat, comes running from a path, and shoots Peter in his back. When Peter falls down to the ground he gets shot eight more times in his back. Right after that the shooter runs away. He throws his sweater in the bushes. The judge later states that it was a ‘cruel and atrocious murder, in a quiet neighbourhood, in the middle of the day where children were playing.’ Both of the suspects are ‘completely heartless’, according to the judge. Both of them are sentenced to be in prison for 15 years.
Dressed in white
Peter Smit’s funeral, in Dordrecht, is an impressive event. Significant fighters of all kinds, all dressed in white, can hardly keep the tears from coming during the speeches. Hundreds of people from all over the world, from Japan and Thailand, have come to pay their last tribute to their hero. Jan Vleesenbeek brings back memories of the first time he ever saw Peter. "It seemed as if he was fighting for his life. This little guy was going to be big one day, but to me he always remained that young boy. They could not win from you with their fists, so they took you away from us in the most despicable way."
Carla Roovers, as well, gives a touching speech. "Your fight for honesty and justice has been fatal for you. You can’t fight with guns. You said: ‘If they ever shoot me, they must be very scared of me’ and ‘Death is the reward for a tough life.’
In May, a tomb stone is placed at cemetry De Essenhof in Dordrecht. Willy, one of Peter’s close friends, insists on paying for it. We come along with Carla the first time she visits. "I was kind of scared to go. I have been here when the stone was not here yet, but this is different, this is how it will be forever." She was allowed to pick the spot herself. It is right next to the grave of a handicapped boy, whom Peter knew also. "Peter always felt something for weaker people."
More pictures: see
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