Europe

Austria police find body after siege

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Media captionThe BBC's Bethany Bell says the gunman is believed to be dead

Austrian police have found a body they believe is a man suspected of shooting dead three policemen and a paramedic.

The charred body was discovered at the farmhouse where the man lived near Melk, Lower Austria, after special forces stormed the building.

Commandos searched the house, backed by about 100 police, as the suspect was reportedly heavily armed.

The drama began on Monday when officers tried to arrest the man on suspicion of poaching near the town of Annaberg.

The suspected gunman - named as Alois Huber, 55 - is thought to have been a notorious deer poacher who had evaded capture for years.

'Secret room'

Police had tried to stop his car, but the man reportedly opened fire after heading into a ditch, injuring a police officer who later died in hospital.

A paramedic was shot dead as he tried to help the officer, and a second policeman was injured.

The gunman then fled on foot, killing a second police officer and taking a third hostage.

He stole their police car and drove, with his captive, to his farmhouse, about 90km (55 miles) west of the capital Vienna.

Officials later discovered the body of the third policeman at the farm. A large section of the area was cordoned off.

Three military armoured vehicles were involved in the operation.

Special forces eventually stormed the farmhouse after shots were fired at them.

Regional police spokesman Roland Scherscher said that during their search of the building, officers found a secret room.

"The room could only be entered through a door hidden in a wall," Mr Scherscher told a news conference. "One had to push against the wall to enter the room. The police forced opened the door and wanted to enter the room. But it had been set ablaze."

Image copyright AP
Image caption The suspect's farmhouse was surrounded for hours before the body was found

"They managed to put out the fire. After that, a burnt male body was found in the room. Whether that corpse belongs to the suspect cannot be verified at the moment."

The three dead police officers were aged between 38 and 51, AFP news agency reports.

The dead paramedic was named as Johann Dorfwirth, said to be 70 years old. He had received numerous awards during a long career, according to local Red Cross chief Willi Sauer.

'Powerful rifle'

Mr Huber legally owned several weapons and a hoard of ammunition, AFP reported. Among his firearms was a powerful hunting rifle able to pierce protective clothing, reports said.

He was described as well-known locally for poaching and defying police and licensed hunters.

He had his hunting licence revoked several years ago, reports said, following a brawl with other hunters and had often left animal heads on the roads.

Local hunters said Mr Huber had poached on other people's land because his had no deer.

The BBC's Bethany Bell in Vienna says there is a sense of shock in Austria.

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner described the events as "unprecedented" in the history of the Austrian police.

She said the officers and the paramedic had "laid down their lives for our safety", expressing condolences to their families and colleagues.

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