Lithuanian police end Panevezys hostage drama

  • 2001-10-11
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - At midnight on Oct. 8-9 police stormed an apartment in Panevezys, northern Lithuania and killed hostage taker Virginijus Savickis, 25, after 16 hours of high tension.

One of the two hostages, 14-year-old Aleksandras Spilevojus, was slightly injured on one arm, while Bronislava Varnyte, the apartment's 60-year-old owner escaped unharmed.

Spilevoyus is undergoing treatment for a bullet wound in Panevezys Hospital. His mother, Irina Spilevaja, waited, praying outside the apartment throughout the day.

"His injury is not dangerous, but he is in shock, which worries us," police spokeswoman Danute Daunoraviciute told The Baltic Times.

Investigators have yet to ascertain who injured Spilevojus, saying he might have been injured by Savickis or by ricocheting bullets fired by the police.

Negotiations with Savickis, who demanded $50,000 and a cross-country vehicle, ended at midnight when a shot was heard, where upon officers broke into the apartment.

Daunoraviciute said officers first wrestled Savickis to the ground and released the 14-year-old from his embrace. But Savickis then pointed a gun at the officers and tried to grab another weapon from one officer, at which point police fired a shot which instantly killed him.

Earlier in the day Savickis was stopped by police on a street, together with Romas Zamolskis, 31. The two fled in different directions, Savickis grabbing the boy on the way to Varnyte's apartment.

Zamolskis, who is thought to have been injured during an earlier shooting, remains at large. On this occasion he was hit three times by police bullets before running into a busy school where police considered it dangerous to open fire. He then disappeared from the school, leaving traces of blood in the corridors.

Daunoraviciute said Savickis had quickly developed friendly relations with his captives - a phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome after a similar incident in the Swedish capital.

"The elderly woman Varnyte in particular was full of sympathy for Savickis during telephone negotiations with police," said Daunoraviciute. "During the negotiations Savickis first ordered medicine for Varnyte and then, because she said she liked pizza, Savickis ordered pizzas and Coca-Cola for the hostages and himself. The police met these demands."

The two men had been sought in connection with shootings of police officers in Vilnius and Kaunas, shootings of soldiers in the neighboring Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and that of a security guard carrying money for the Lithuanian Agricultural Bank.

Both have histories of mental illness. In 1999 a court decided Savickis was not dangerous and released him from Rokiskis Mental Hospital. Zamolskis however escaped from Ziegzdriai psychiatric hospital.

Despite this week's events, Panevezys's reputation as Lithuania's crime capital is no longer deserved, said Daunoraviciute. "A couple of years ago Panevezys was famous as a criminal city but it is now a calm city with the lowest crime rate of any big Lithuanian city."

Zamolskis might now seek treatment for his injuries at a hospital or veterinary clinic, she added.