Haider widow halts cremation amid suspicions

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The Independent Online

Jörg Haider's corpse was sent for a second post-mortem in Italy today after the Austrian far-right leader's widow voiced fears that that his death in a high speed car crash in early October might not have been an accident.

Senior members of his Alliance for the Future of Austria party said that Claudia Haider had serious doubts that her husband was killed as a result of drunk driving and suspected he may have been drugged.

Mr Haider died after his VW Phaeton limousine left the road and somersaulted several times in the early hours of 11 October. He was driving at twice the speed limit, and an initial post mortem showed that he had four times the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream.

However his widow has refused to accept those findings and insisted that her husband's cremation, which had been due to take place earlier this week, be postponed indefinitely.

Mr Haider's former party colleagues said his body would be subjected to a second post-mortem in Italy and further tests by German pathologists to determine whether foul play may have played a role in his death.

Claudia Haider was said to be highly sceptical of Austrian pathologists' conclusions that the 58-year-old politician had consumed such a large amount of alcohol in such a short space of time. She was reported to have said that such behaviour was not in his character and that she feared that he may have been given drugs. Party officials have said there were no skid marks on the road at the accident site and he may have already been unconscious when he crashed.

However Gottfried Kranz, the Austrian state prosecutor who investigated the circumstances of the death, has insisted that no traces of drugs were found. "The tests showed no drugs, only alcohol," he said.

There have been conflicting reports about Mr Haider's condition in the last hours and minutes before his death. Witnesses at a party that he attended in the town of Velden, in the southern state of Carinthia, before the accident have reported that he seemed quite sober.

Shortly afterwards, however, Mr Haider was seen in a gay bar in the state capital, Klagenfurt where he was reported to have consumed a bottle of vodka with an unidentified male companion before getting into his car and driving away.

Family fears that Mr Haider could have been drugged before his death, were made public only days after the politician's former deputy - 27-year-old Stefan Petzner - revealed that he had a gay love affair with the far right leader which they had begun several years ago.

"We had a relationship that went far beyond friendship," Mr Petzner said during a radio interview. "Jorg and I were connected by something very special. He was the man in my life," he said. Mr Petzner became party leader after Mr Haider's death, but he was dismissed for outing himself earlier this week.