Trial of ‘mentally disturbed’ killer driver begins in Graz

The man who drove his 4x4 into a crowd of pedestrians in the Austrian city of Graz in June last year, killing three people and wounding more than 100 others, has gone on trial.

Trial of 'mentally disturbed' killer driver begins in Graz
A CCTV image of the June 2015 rampage. Photo: ORF screengrab

The defendant, named only as Alen R. and dressed all in white, told the court in the southern city that he thought he was being chased, had heard gunshots and that his car had mechanical problems.

“I didn't want to run anyone over, I just wanted to get away so that I didn't get shot,” the 27-year-old told the court. “I felt like I was being chased.”

Prosecutors are not pushing for murder charges but want to send the accused to a mental institution.

A trial jury is now tasked with deciding whether the father-of-two lorry driver was sound of mind at the time of the incident.

Two psychological reports have concluded he was not criminally responsible, while a third said he was. He has been receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital. 

Police reports said the suspect showed signs of psychosis during initial questioning and one expert said he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the attack on June 20th 2015. The Bosnian-born man has a history of domestic violence.

If he is committed to a mental institution he may be released after just seven years if doctors decide he is no longer a risk to others or himself. 

Witnesses of the horrific attack described scenes of terror as the car ploughed into Graz's pedestrian shopping area at over 100 kilometres (60 miles) an hour, forcing people to scramble out of harm's way.

His victims included a four-year-old boy, a 53-year-old man, and a 28-year-old newly-wed Muslim woman.

Alterations have been made to the courtroom in Graz – including the installation of a wheelchair ramp as many of the witnesses and victims were disabled after the attack. The trial will be held under increased security.



Austria expecting sunny weather this weekend after ‘coldest April since 1997’

After an unusually cold spring, warm sunshine is finally heading for Austria this Mother's Day weekend.

People enjoy sunny weather in Vienna's Stadtpark. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
People enjoy sunny weather in Vienna's Stadtpark. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Bright sunshine and summer temperatures are predicted for most of the country all weekend, with lovely weather forecast for Mother’s Day on Sunday. 

It’s a significant turn after what was the coldest April in more than two decades. 

The weather will be best in the west of Austria, though on Saturday morning it will be slightly frosty in some Alpine valleys. By Saturday afternoon, temperatures should be over 20 degrees in western Austria and up to 22 degrees in Vorarlberg and Tyrol up to 22 degrees. 

At heights above 2000m it will still be around minus 5 to minus 2 degrees in the morning, in the afternoon around zero degrees on the Schneeberg and 6 degrees in the Ötztal Alps.

On Sunday it will be much warmer. Temperatures will reach 19 degrees in the Bernsteiner and East Styrian areas and go up to 24 degrees around Vienna. 

In Vorarlberg and western Austria it could even get as warm as 28 or 29 degrees, with bright sunshine. However, it will feel cooler in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland, due to brisk winds. 

Frosty nights have worried farmers, especially those tending to orchards such as these apricot trees in the Wachau Valley. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Coldest April since 1997

Spring has been unusually cold this year.

Broadcaster ORF reports it was the coldest April since 1997.

New records have even been set, with minus seven degrees celsius was measured at Graz Airport on April 8th and temperatures of minus 11.8 degrees Celsius recorded at Bad Mitterndorf the next day.