Snipers to remain behind bars

Two young men who injured more than a dozen people with an air-powered gun in Vienna in the past weeks will be kept in custody.

Crime officials in the city said yesterday (Mon) the friends, both aged 20, would remain in detention for another two weeks when judges would decide over whether they would be released until their trial dates. The residents of Vienna – a company employee and a jobless friend – were arrested last week. They are suspected of being behind at least 18 apparently random and motiveless attacks on pedestrians, drivers and cyclists.

Thomas Vecsey, a spokesman for the Viennese prosecution, told newspaper Die Presse today that the suspects were kept in solitary confinement to keep them from making arrangements regarding their testimonies. Vecsey added that the offenders were in custody in Josefstadt jail in the Viennese district of the same name.

Viennese media report today that the defendants made contradictory statements. While one of them admitted having used the weapon to fire shots at people, his accomplice claimed he only drove the car. However, his pal claimed he also turned the air revolver at passersby. The suspects stressed speaking to investigators that they instantly stopped the attacks when they heard on the news that people sustained injuries.

One of the perpetrators’ advocates called the decision to keep them behind bars for another two weeks “incomprehensible”, claiming that the young men were unlikely to carry out any more crimes now that they had been tracked down. He and the lawyer of the other main suspect as well as the police confirmed that the snipers had not been charged or convicted for any kind of crimes before.

At least 18 people were injured in the incidents. The offenders presumably started their attacks in August. However, investigators believe that some more people could have been attacked but did not notice they were under fire. Some dailies speculated before the duo were nabbed that a “mad loner” must be behind the felonies while others did not rule out a two-offender theory.

It also emerged yesterday that the 22,000-Euro reward promised by the police and an association supporting the Viennese police force’s work would go to four teenagers. The unnamed witnesses informed investigators about having seen a white, old Opel Astra close to where some of the attacks happened. Police focused on checking all registered cars of that type as well as similar models and eventually came across a vehicle owned by the father of one of the attackers.