Suspect confesses to allotment murder

The 44-year-old suspect in a murder which took place on an Innsbruck allotment confessed on Thursday. The man, who is from South Tyrol, was arrested in Munich and has now been transferred to Innsbruck.

Suspect confesses to allotment murder
Police at the murder scene. Photo: Tyrol police

Hansjörg Mayr, spokesman for the Innsbruck public prosecutor, told Austrian media that the suspect was questioned by a judge on Thursday and confessed to having battered 59-year-old Helmut H. to death with a stone after the pair had an argument. He said that he then buried the body in the victim’s allotment.

According to the prosecutor’s office the accused denies that he intended to kill the victim, and Mayr told the ORF that it was still unclear what his motive for the murder was. An investigation is still ongoing and DNA evidence from the crime scene is being analyzed.

The 44-year-old suspect has been given pre-trial detention.

The murder made headlines in Austria after the victim’s son and a friend who were filming on the allotment accidentally stumbled over the body, which was wrapped in a blanket and buried in a shallow grave.

The 59-year-old man from Innsbruck had been missing for weeks, and his family had not been able to reach him on his mobile phone. The allotment had already been searched twice by a police team with sniffer dogs, who had failed to find the body.

A European arrest warrant was issued for the 44-year-old South Tyrolian man, who was reportedly the last person to have seen the victim on his allotment, the day he disappeared. He was arrested on April 23rd near to a bed and breakfast in Munich.

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What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

It’s always good to know your legal rights when living as a foreigner in Austria - including if you get in trouble with the police.

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Getting arrested is probably not high up on a list of must-dos for international residents in Austria, but it’s not a bad idea to know what would happen if you did.

In a nutshell, the process in Austria is similar to most other countries in that you have to be suspected of committing a crime to be arrested.

But what happens next? What are your rights? And how long can someone be held in custody?

Here’s what you need to know.

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When can someone be arrested in Austria?

If someone is suspected of being a criminal, they can be arrested by the police and taken to a police station for questioning. 

Under the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure, suspects must be informed of their rights as soon as possible, or at the very least before being interrogated by the police.

They also have a right to remain silent or to make a statement, as well as consult a lawyer.

According to Vienna-based attorney Evert Vastenburg, the initial detainment after arrest can last up to 48 hours while a judge decides whether a person should remain in custody or not.

A suspect can then be released on bail or under certain conditions, such as handing over a passport to police.

However, those suspected of serious crimes that typically lead to a prison sentence of 10 years or more (if found guilty) are almost always remanded in custody.

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When is someone remanded in custody?

To be refused bail and remanded in custody, there must be serious suspicion that another crime could be committed. 

The judge also must believe there is no other way to deal with the suspect. For example, he/she needs to be readily available to the authorities for questioning.

Another valid reason to keep someone in custody past the initial 48 hours is the risk of someone absconding. In fact, Vastenburg says a flight risk is often assumed with people that do not live and work in Austria.

Other reasons to deny a suspect release are a risk that evidence will be destroyed, witnesses will be contacted, or there is a possibility that further crimes will be committed.

What happens if bail is denied?

If bail is denied and a person must be held in custody for more than 48 hours, they have to be legally represented by a lawyer.

If a suspect can’t afford to hire a lawyer, they will be appointed a Verfahrenshilfe (public defender) by the state.

The case will be then reviewed by a judge on a regular basis to decide if custody should continue.

The first review will take place after 14 days, then at one month and every two months, but a suspect can petition for release at any time.

READ ALSO: Six tourist scams to be aware of in Austria

How many foreigners are in Austrian prisons?

According to data from the Austrian Judiciary, the number of foreigners in Austrian jails as of June 1st 2022 was 4,332 – almost 50 percent of all prisoners.

In relation to the statistics, the Austrian Judiciary states: “The high proportion of foreigners is one of many challenges for the Austrian penal system. 

“In particular, with regard to successful rehabilitation, the fastest possible transfer to the countries of origin is encouraged.

The most common nationality of foreign prisoners in Austria is Romanian, followed by people from the former Yugoslavian states, Hungary, Nigeria and Turkey.