Truck-driver-kidnapping ring busted
Fourteen members of a viscious international gang, consisting predominantly of Slovaks, were arrested on November 15 in Vienna, Hungary and Serbia on charges of abducting and murdering truck drivers and stealing their goods. The next day, Austrian police officials announced that members of the group had admitted to the murder of nine drivers and the assault of two others. So far, only five of the bodies have been recovered.
According to Austrian police officials, the gang began by luring tow truck drivers to pre-determined locations by making fake phone calls to towing firms and requesting urgent help for breakdowns or accidents. When the unsuspecting drivers arrived, they were abducted and their towing vehicles were transported to Yugoslavia. The same ruse was used to snare transport truck drivers and their cargos, police said.
Drivers from Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, and Austria were abducted by the gang on the territories of Italy, Croatia, Yugoslavia and Austria. In all, 14 members of the gang were arrested - one woman in Hungary, four men in Serbia and 10 men in Vienna.
The bodies of three Slovak drivers have so far been recovered but five drivers are still listed as missing. On January 24, the body of Slovak Miroslav Urbanec, who had been shot in the head and appeared to have been tortured, was found in Bruck an der Leitha, a town just east of Vienna.
British driver causes serious accident
One person died in a serious traffic accident in the afternoon of November 12 on a motorway outside Horná Streda near Piešťany in western Slovakia. A Toyota Camry, driven by Paul. M (37) from Great Britain and a Škoda Felicia with four passengers collided head on at high speed, resulting in one fatality and three serious injuries to the passengers in the Škoda.
Akthough Paul. M.'s injuries were minor, he was hospitalized in Trenčín. That evening, he fled the hospital and attempted to leave the country, but was detained by Slovak police at the Bratislava-Berg Austrian border crossing. The British citizen was then escorted to Nové Mesto nad Váhom and formally charged with causing serious bodily harm.
Archbishop Sokol blesses Wederin Bell
After ungoing extensive repairs at the Bratislava Research Institute of Welding, the Wederin Bell of Saint Martin's Cathedral in Bratislava was replaced in the cathedral tower by crane on November 13. The bell, which had been taken down on August 21 for reconstruction, was blessed by Archbishop Jan Sokol before being raised.
The Wederin Bell weighs 2,513 kilograms and was made by Vienna bell-producer Balthasar Herold in 1670. It is one of Slovakia's oldest cultural monuments and one of the five oldest bells in Europe.
The repaired bell is scheduled to chime for the first time at 11:00 on November 21.
Compiled by Chris Togneri
from SITA and TASR