The 1946 killing of Felix Gulje, the head of a construction company who at the time was being considered for a high political post, roiled the Netherlands, and the failure to find the assassin became a point of contention among political parties.
On Wednesday, the mayor of Leiden, Henri Lenferink, said a woman has confessed to the killing, saying it happened in the mistaken belief that Gulje had collaborated with the Nazis.
Lenferink said he received a letter from the woman, whom he identified as Atie Ridder-Visser, on Jan. 1. Two subsequent interviews with her and a review of the historical archives persuaded him that her story was true.
On the cold sleeting night of March 1, 1946, Atie Visser rang Gulje's doorbell in Leiden, and told his wife that she had a letter to give to her husband. When he came to the door she shot him in the chest. He died in the ambulance, the mayor said, reading a lengthy statement at a news conference.
Visser had been a member of the resistance during the 1940-1945 Nazi occupation. Rumors had been circulating that Gulje was working with the occupation authorities, and he had been targeted in the underground press. His company did regular business with the Germans, and several employees belonged to a pro-Nazi organization.
He was arrested after the war, but acquitted.
After his death it emerged that Gulje had sheltered some Jews and had given money to help hide others with other families. A banned Catholic association also held secret meetings in his home, Lenferink said.
Visser moved to Indonesia after the war, where she met and married Herman Ridder. Childless, they moved back to the Netherlands several years later, also spending a few years in Spain.
Lenferink said police never suspected the woman in the killing.
After disclosing her role, Ridder-Visser met two grandchildren of her victim last month to explain what happened and why she did it, the mayor said. He did not disclose details of that conversation.
Ridder-Visser will not be prosecuted, he said. Although the 18-year statute of limitations was lifted for serious crimes in 2006, prosecutors ruled that the change in law would not apply in this case.
"Even now, after 65 years, the murder should be strongly condemned," Lenferink said. "It is a case of vigilantism, and is unacceptable."
But he appealed to reporters to leave her alone. "Mrs. Ridder-Visser is a very old, very frail woman who hears poorly, is disabled and needs help," he said.