New lead in murder mystery

  • 2001-10-25
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - It has now been confirmed that a second gun was used in last week's slaying of senior Latvian judge Janis Laukroze.

State police spokesman Krists Leiskalns said the assailant first used a regular pistol and then, when Laukroze fell to the ground, shot him several times with a specially designed home-made gun.

"Once the trigger was pulled the gun automatically emptied the entire clip," said Leiskalns.

The killing of Laukroze prompted a wave of outrage from other top officials. Ministers and MPs expressed horror at the tragedy and said the killer must be brought to justice as soon as possible.

Laukroze was described by commentators as a man of honor. During his funeral Justice Minister Ingrida Labucka called him "a lawyer with a capital ŒL' whose life was snuffed out by a villainous murderer's bullet."

But some newspapers said Laukroze might have been tainted by corruption. The Russian-language daily Chas reported that the judge could have been killed for not fulfilling his side of a deal under which he was paid $1.2 million by dubious sources.

Leiskalns rejected these allegations. "There were a few text messages sent by mobile phone to various people about Laukroze's murder around the time of the killing, but it has been confirmed that these were lies," he said.

The police is not pursuing such allegations but is considering a new explanation for the murder. As well as the theory that his death was related to his work, or that it was a random shooting, the possibility that the activities of members of his family are the key to the mystery is also being considered.

Laukroze's son works for the country's top security organization, the Constitution Protection Office, although what his duties there consist of has not been made public.

As for the possibility that Laukroze was gunned down because of his work, Valters Jakobijs, attorney for National Bolshevik member Vladimirs Moskovcevs, rejected the idea being discussed in some Latvian media that members of the National Bolshevik might have been involved.

Laukroze earlier this year presided over the conviction of Moskovcevs and two others who took possession of the bell-tower of St. Peter's Church in Old Riga in possession of what turned out to be a dummy hand grenade.

Jakobijs told reporters on Oct. 18 that members of the organization would not have gone so far as to kill a judge, especially since the terrorism convictions imposed by Laukroze had, on appeal, been reduced to hooliganism.

Police are currently determining the identities of the residents of Laukroze's neighborhood in order to see if anyone else could have been a target.