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Armed men spring drugs man from courtroom

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12:22 CEST+02:00
Two masked and armed men stormed into Västerås district court on Friday lunchtime and set free a defendant.

The 52-year old Stockholm man who was released was the main figure in a drugs trial, and was charged with possessing 20 kilos of amphetamines. At the time of the raid the court was in the middle of a committal hearing.

A black BMW drove to the court entrance. Two short, thin men, wearing blue and wearing balaclavas ran through the court's front office and into the courtroom. One of the men was armed and pointed his automatic weapon round the courtroom in a sweeping motion.

The defendant stood up and ran out with the two raiders. A fourth man is believed to have driven the getaway car, which left the scene heading north.

"The events happened quickly and were a shock for all involved, but several of those present rushed after the men when they left," police spokesman Börje Strömberg said.

"We had no indications that something like this could happen. If we had, the committal hearing would have taken place in the police station rather that at the court."

The BMW, which was stolen in Stockholm, was found at around 1pm outside a burger restaurant in western Västerås. The police sealed off the area to conduct a forensic examination and to question witnesses. They were told that the fugitives possibly swapped to a black Saab 9000, which was seen driving from the restaurant at around 12 pm.

"We know the numbers on the registration plates, and we are now checking all Saabs with that number combination," Strömberg said.

A nationwide alert has been issued following the break-out. Police set up road blocks around Västerås and are using helicopters in the search. the escaped man's public defender, Per-Eric Erlandsson, was in court when his client escaped. He did not want to make any comment on the events.

"The hearing was held behind closed doors. I can't reveal anything," he said.

The freed man was arrested by the drugs squad in Stockholm in March. 18 kilos of amphetamines, believed to have been smuggled in from the Netherlands, were found in a secret compartment in his car. Another seven people are suspected of being involved in the crime, which involved a total of 20 kilos of the drug, with a street value of 5 million kronor.

Police say they know a great deal about the man's contact network through their investigation. They say they have plenty of lines of inquiry in their attempt to find out who spirited him away.

"We've formed a good picture of him, but he has many contacts, and there's a lot of money involved in the deals," Börje Strömberg said.

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