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CRIME

Man strangled ex-wife with shoelace

A man from Upper Austria who bludgeoned his wife with a rolling pin and then strangled her with a shoelace is on trial for her murder in Leoben.

He has confessed to the killing, which took place last April, and claimed that she drove him to it with her constant nagging. “I just wanted to shut her up,” the Austrian Press Agency quoted him as saying. 

The 51-year-old married his wife in 2009, but a year later the couple had divorced. However, they remained living together, even though they quarrelled constantly.

On April 24th 2014 the couple had been drinking and had a row as the man had not painted the house, as he had promised to. The wife went into the bedroom. Her ex went into the kitchen, grabbed a rolling pin and then attacked her in the bedroom, hitting her on the head and dragging her out of bed.

The prosecutor said that he hit her with such force that both handles of the rolling pin broke off. He then tied her feet together, taped her mouth, and strangled her to death with a shoelace. He told the judge that he had “just wanted to scare her” but that suddenly “she went quiet”.

He then cleaned the house and only called the police and ambulance hours later. He told police that he had found the 52-year-old lying dead on the floor after he returned from walking the dog, but later admitted that he had “been furious” with his ex.

Asked by the judge if that was the reason he had attacked her, he replied that he “didn’t recall”.

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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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