Man accused of severing own fingers for insurance
Austrian Accused of Deliberately Putting Hands Beneath Train So His Fingers Would Be Severed
SALZBURG, Austria*Nov 29, 2005 —*Prosecutors on Tuesday accused a former fingernail designer of deliberately putting his hands beneath a passing train so his fingers would be severed and he could collect on a euro1 million ($1.17 million) insurance policy.
The 35-year-old defendant from the town of St. Johann, whose name was not released in line with Austrian privacy laws, is being tried on federal charges of insurance fraud stemming from claims filed in November 2003, when the incident occurred.
The suspect told police he was riding his bicycle when he lost control and rolled down an embankment and onto railroad tracks just as a train was passing by, losing a thumb on one hand and an index finger and a pinky on the other.
Insurance company investigators became suspicious after they found that the man had taken out the policy a few months before the alleged accident.
State's attorney Elvira Gonschorowski-Zehentner said Tuesday that prosecutors had reason to believe the man cut off his own fingers in an attempt to cash in on his insurance.
But the defendant's lawyer, Karl Wampl, dismissed as outlandish the notion that the man would intentionally have mutilated himself in such a fashion, contending he could have used a power saw to cut off his fingers rather than risk death faking an accident with a train.
The suspect has admitted that he had accumulated about euro150,000 ($175,000) in debts at the time he lost the fingers, prosecutors said.
If convicted, the man faces up to 10 years in prison, authorities said.