Neo-Nazi icon was drunk at the wheel when he died in crash

The Scotsman, UK/October 16, 2008

Jorg Haider, the flamboyant far-right Austrian leader, was three times the legal limit for alcohol when he died in a high-speed car crash at the weekend.

A coroner revealed yesterday that Mr Haider was driving alone at 88mph in a 70mph zone when he overtook a 37-year-old woman, lost control of his car and hit a concrete post at 1:18am on Saturday.

He was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

His blood-alcohol level, measured at 0.18 per cent, was three times Austria's legal limit of 0.05 per cent, and more than twice the UK's 0.08 per cent.

A Volkswagen engineer said on Sunday that there was no fault with the car, a VW Phaeton.

Friends and relatives have refused to make any further comment. Stefan Petzner, a 27-year-old protege who has taken over leadership of the Alliance party, said: "The Austrian and international media should no longer report on the accident." Mr Haider, he said, had paid "the highest price you can".

However, speculation and conspiracy theories still surround Mr Haider's death. Far-right politicians like former Carinthian Freedom party politician Karlheinz Klement are convinced it was the result of a plot by Israel's secret service.

In Carinthia, where Mr Haider had been governor on and off since 1989, there is an outpouring of emotion. The crash site is marked by flickering candles, bouquets of flowers and people queuing for hours to make an entry in the condolences book.

Typical messages read: "We live through you"; "What will Carinthia be like?"; "I felt safe and protected in the country so long as you were around"; and "What shall we do without you?"

Mr Haider died seemingly at the height of his populist powers, having taken his Alliance for the Future party to an 11 per cent share of the national vote earlier this month and afterwards opening up the possibility of working with the Freedom Party, from which he acrimoniously split in 2005, and which won 18 per cent of the vote. While his election campaign literature was benign by his standards, he still made several veiled references to re-introducing Nazi-type policies in his statements to the press.

What next

Jorg Haider's body will lie in state in Carinthia's capital city of Klagenfurt today and tomorrow, before the funeral service on Saturday.

Among those marching in procession in time to military music will be the Austrian president, Heinz Fischer.

Representatives of far right parties from Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands are also expected to attend.

Up to 50,000 people are expected at the service, which will be screened at three outdoor sites in the city. The body is to be cremated.

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