Austrian poacher kills policemen, body found after standoff

MELK, Austria Wed Sep 18, 2013 12:48am BST

1 of 6. Police block the road to the village of Kollapriel in Grosspriel some 80 km (50 miles) west of Vienna September 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

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MELK, Austria (Reuters) - A suspected poacher shot dead three policemen and a paramedic in Austria, then barricaded himself on Tuesday in his farmhouse where a charred body believed to be that of the gunman was later found by officers, police and media said.

Police said the suspect, 55, first shot dead a police officer late on Monday after breaking through a roadblock in the province of Lower Austria near Vienna, where authorities were trying to catch poachers, or hunters shooting deer without a license.

He then killed a paramedic and wounded another policeman hurrying to the scene.

After fatally shooting another police officer at a separate roadblock, the man then fled in a stolen police car to his home near the city of Melk, about 70 km (40 miles) away, taking another policeman with him as a hostage.

That officer was later found dead in a barn nearby.

The man, whom police did not identify, fired repeatedly at police surrounding the farmhouse. After an hours-long standoff, police entered the house and found a charred body in a basement hideaway, Austrian media quoted a police spokesman as saying.

The spokesman was not immediately available.

The Krone tabloid quoted a friend of the suspect as saying he had confessed in a telephone call from his home as a police helicopter circled overhead and officers closed in.

"Unfortunately it is true. I shot three policemen tonight," the paper quoted the conversation as related by the friend. "I am the Annaberg poacher. They shot me too, in the stomach. But it doesn't matter.

"I shot Burgi (his German shepherd dog) and they are not going to get me either."

The newspaper quoted the friend as saying the suspected gunman had confided two weeks ago that he was schizophrenic.

Violent crime is rare in Austria, but hunting is a centuries-old tradition in the Alpine republic enjoyed by tens of thousands, many of them farmers and landowners.

(Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Michael Shields in Vienna; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Philip Barbara)

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