VIENNA – Austrian poacher Alois Huber, who killed three police officers and a paramedic while attempting to escape arrest, has been found dead in his home after setting it on fire, police said on Wednesday.
"Police officers wanted to open the door" to a hidden room but "fire broke out" said police spokesman Roland Scherscher in the early hours of Wednesday after a lengthy stand-off.
When the fire was brought under control "the body of a man, believed to be the poacher and murder suspect, was discovered" after a five-hour operation, he added.
"It is one of the saddest days," a visibly emotional Scherscher told reporters.
The three slain police officers were aged between 38 and 51 while the dead Red Cross paramedic was said to be 70.
The paramedic, Johann Dorfwirth, had received numerous awards during a long career, local Red Cross chief Willi Sauer said.
Late on uesday army tanks and hundreds of armed police in bullet proof gear were deployed to Huber's home, which had been surrounded since early in the day after he shot and killed the four victims.
The deadly drama began Monday when elite "Cobra" force commandos attempted to stop the man, a well-known poacher, in his car near the town of Annaberg after a tip-off that he was hunting illegally.
He drove through a road block and opened fire, fatally shooting one of the police commandos in the neck.
Less than an hour later, while the commando was still receiving medical treatment, he opened fire again, killing the ambulance driver and injuring a second policeman.
The suspect, who owns a small transport company, then fled on foot, travelling several kilometres before firing at two other police officers, killing one on the spot and taking the other hostage.
He stole their police car and drove, with his captive, some 60 km to his farmhouse at Grosspriel near the city of Melk.
Police said on Tuesday that the dead body of the officer taken hostage had been found in the police car in a shed at the farm.
The house had been surrounded since around 7:00am (0500 GMT) on Tuesday by around 100 police as Huber, who had an arsenal of hunting guns, continued to fire at them.
He legally owned several weapons and a hoard of ammunition, and reports said among his firearms was a powerful hunting rifle able to pierce protective clothing.
Hunting is a popular pastime in Austria. Huber was well known locally for defying police and licensed hunters, often leaving the heads of dead animals on roads.
He was said to have had his hunting licence revoked several years ago.AFP