After the brutal attack on a Salzburg jewelery family on August 15, 2019 in Koppl (Flachgau), the process that started in June at the Salzburg Regional Court with long-term freedom roads came to an end on Thursday. The two defendants, aged 43 and 40, were convicted of aggravated robbery, extortionate kidnapping and arson. The older of the two Czechs received 20 years and the younger 18.5 years of unconditional imprisonment.
The judgments are not final. The jury unanimously affirmed the questions about the guilt of the men. The 43-year-old first defendant, who was also convicted of coercion, had protested his innocence. He said he was in Prague at the time of the crime. The younger admitted the coup. Both accused filed an appeal after the verdict.
During the Home Invasion, a 41-year-old family man, his 35-year-old wife, their two toddlers and an au pair girl from South America suffered martyrdom. Three masked perpetrators entered the villa on Heuberg through the open patio door and threatened those present, who had just prepared for a hike, with a gun. They kicked and punched the husband, handcuffed and gagged the adults and asked the 35-year-old to remove jewelry and watches from a safe. The precious items were valued at 150,000 euros, as it turned out later.
Then the perpetrators forced the wife to fetch more pieces of jewelry, precious stones and watches from the shop in the city of Salzburg, which was closed on the Assumption of Mary. Meanwhile, the perpetrators forced the other victims, including children aged two and four, into the family’s car and the husband and au pair into the trunk, set the house on fire and escaped with their hostages.
The car got stuck in a nearby forest. A couple from Salzburg who were on a hike and noticed a fire where the perpetrators were burned wanted to call the police. But one of the perpetrators shot four times in the air. They then snatched their mobile phones from the hikers and fled to a rucksack that had been deposited nearby. There they changed and disguised themselves as athletes on mountain bikes. The villa suffered damage of 1.5 million euros. The family moved after the attack.
DNA search success
The investigators have evaluated 120 traces secured at the crime scene. A DNA comparison in the European database showed six hits for the 43-year-old first defendant and two hits for the second defendant, as the public prosecutor said at the beginning of the trial. The older man’s molecular abrasion was found on a headlamp, dying on the forest floor near the escape vehicle, on a gasoline canister with which the house was set on fire, on the drinking opening of a PET mineral water bottle and on a piece of cloth. The abrasion of the younger accused also sticks to a PET bottle and to a piece of fabric near a fireplace near the escape vehicle.
The prosecutor also referred to images from a surveillance camera at a nearby inn, showing two men riding mountain bikes down the valley. One of the two was very similar to the first defendant, and the tattoo on the second defendant’s arm was very similar to that of the second defendant.
A perpetrator has not yet been determined
Based on the DNA hits, the two defendants were identified as suspects. Another perpetrator is still being investigated. The 43-year-old has a criminal record in the Czech Republic for violent crimes and property crimes. The man, who last worked as an employment agency and driver, was conditionally released from several years’ imprisonment in April 2019. On November 5, 2019, he was arrested in Prague and later extradited to Salzburg.
The handcuffs clicked on the 40-year-old on December 9, 2020 in Prague and he was also extradited to Austria. The two accused met between February 2009 and February 2011 in a prison in Prague, where they were detained, according to prosecutors. The second defendant, also a driver, was released from prison for a bank robbery in 2012.
The defense attorney for the first defendant, who did not confess, confronted the jury with an “alibi”. The 43-year-old borrowed a car from a car rental company an hour before the attack on August 15, 2019 in Prague, around 400 kilometers from Salzburg, at 9 a.m. and signed the contract. There are two witnesses who can confirm that. One of them said in a video transmission during the trial as a witness that a man was at the company in Prague on August 15 and that he looked like the defendant.
“Have not done anything”
The 43-year-old Czech protested, “I haven’t done anything”. The four stones that were found during a house search in the Czech Republic and that is why it was preserved were only pieces of glass jewelry for shoes and no diamonds from the looted prey in Salzburg, he told the presiding judge Ilona Schalwich-Mozes.
The first defendant also found an explanation for how his DNA traces got on the gasoline can, headlamp and PET bottle. He was convicted of car theft in the Czech Republic. He sold a car that he did not hand over to the police ten to 14 days before the Home Invasion “in another country” – to the second defendant, as the defense attorney said earlier.
He saw no reason why he shouldn’t have left these items in the car, the defendant said. The perpetrators of the coup on the jewelry family threw the things at the scene to confuse the police, he thought. This year he realized that the second defendant must be one of the perpetrators. “So far, I just thought they were his friends,” the interpreter read out the document that the accused had brought to the trial. His defense lawyer requests an acquittal.
The second defendant made a confession. His defense attorney positive, the 40-year-old plead guilty according to the indictment. He was persuaded by two former Yugoslav citizens to be the third man to carry out the coup in Salzburg. “The first indictment was not there.” The two men would have to instruct the second defendant to buy the vehicle. “He got money for the crime. He regrets it ruefully.”
The victims were traumatized after the attack. The couple and the two hikers need professional psychological help.