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CRIME

Armed robber captured with cash from hotel

In the early hours of Christmas morning, a man armed with a replica gun held up the staff at a hotel near Mariahilferstrasse in Vienna, and made off with the contents of the cash box.

Armed robber captured with cash from hotel
The replica used in the robbery - "Officer 8" by JG Schrödel. Photo: Police

According to a report in the news daily Oesterreich, the man, who was wearing a balaclava and armed with a replica pistol, stormed into the lobby of the Beethoven hotel in Papagenogasse, and threatened employees with the gun.

He demanded money, and fled with the hotel's cash in the direction of the Getreidemarkt.  The cashier was able to quickly call the police, and gave them an accurate description.

According to police spokesman Patrick Maierhofer, a 34-year-old suspect was arrested a short time after the robbery, when a policeman spotted the man in the Operngasse near the Albertina.

The German suspect was found carrying the replica weapon, as well as a balaclava and a large sum of money.  When initially questioned about his motive for the robbery, he told police he needed the money.

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CRIME

Austrian people smuggler jailed over deaths of Syrians in minivan

An Austrian court on Monday sentenced a people smuggler to seven years in prison over the deaths of two Syrians who suffocated in the crammed minivan he was driving, Austria's news agency reported.

Austrian people smuggler jailed over deaths of Syrians in minivan

The bodies of the two men were discovered last October when Austrian authorities stopped and searched a van at the border with Hungary.

Thirty people in total were crammed in the vehicle, whose driver fled the scene but was later arrested in Latvia and extradited.

The 19-year-old Latvian was found guilty of people smuggling and causing fatal injuries, but was not found guilty of murder, APA reported.

READ MORE: Austrian police warn public about new ‘fake cops’ scam

He said he would accept the verdict, but the prosecution can still appeal it, APA said.

A court spokeswoman could not immediately be reached by AFP. 

Austria’s interior ministry announced in May that police had smashed a group believed to have smuggled tens of thousands of mostly Syrians, including the two found suffocated, from Hungary to Austria.

A total of 205 people suspected to be linked to the group have been arrested in central and eastern Europe, the ministry said.

Those smuggled, including children, were trying to reach western European countries, including Germany and France.

The October discovery of the dead men recalled a dire event in August 2015 when 71 people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan suffocated in the back of an air-tight van where they had been hidden by people smugglers.

The bodies, including those of three children and a baby, were discovered in Austria but they had died while still on the other side of the border.

Almost four years later, the Hungarian courts sentenced their smugglers to life imprisonment.

The emotion aroused by that tragedy triggered a brief opening of the borders to hundreds of thousands of people wishing to reach Western Europe.

But Austria and other European countries have since fortified borders to stop people smuggling.

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