3 arrested in handball player slaying

BUDAPEST -- Austrian police have arrested three suspects in the killing of Romanian handball player Marian Cozma and the injuring of two of his teammates.

A combo photo of suspects Rafael and Sztojka (rtl.hu)
A combo photo of suspects Rafael and Sztojka (rtl.hu)

Police in Hungary said earlier that the third suspect was still at large.

The two injured players were Serbia's Žarko Šešum and Croatian goalkeeper Ivan Pešić.

Police previously named two suspects in the stabbings of the Veszprem club players in front of a city nightclub as Sandor Rafael and Ivan Sztojka.

But the three persons the Austrians have arrested near the border with Hungary last night were Rafael, another man, indentified as Gyozo N., and a woman, all Hungarian citizens.

Police dodged questions of whether the crime was committed by Romas, or Gypsies, which most of the public already believes is true, since Roma gangs have been terrorizing the Veszprem area recently.

The Roma issue in Hungary is very sensitive. One police captain was reportedly fired and then reinstated, after stating that in his district all of the crimes committed recently have been by Romas.

A commemorative gathering for the slain player was held last night in the city’s main square, at which hundreds of people were in attendance.

There were anti-Roma chants heard and members of the radical nationalist Hungarian Guard were also present at the gathering.

There were cameras set up in and in front of the club where the attack took place, so the entire event was recorded. Hungarian press have quoted Romanian sources with statements from Cozma’s father who said that he feels as if the murderers killed him, not his son.

According to initial information, the three handball players were celebrating the birth of a friend’s child at the local nightclub.

However, a disagreement between the players and locals turned into a fight in which Cozma was stabbed in the heart and pronounced dead upon arrival to the hospital.

Pešić was stabbed in the kidney and which was removed yesterday during an emergency surgery, while Šešum was knocked unconscious by hard blows to the head.

Šešum's condition is stable and non-life threatening.

He has in the meantime undergone surgery, which according to the director of Veszprem hospital, Jeno Racz, went well.

There were fears that the athlete's eyesight might be impaired from the injury, but Racz said that after another corrective operation "Šešum will see just like he did before the tragic event".

Velimir Marjanović of the Serbian Handball Association said that Šešum was struck when we was trying to help his teammate, who was lying on the ground. He said that Šešum’s father has left for Hungary.

The Romanian interior ministry has joined the investigation and is working with the Hungarian police to locate and arrest the suspects.