Murder of international handball star shocks Romania

February 9th, 2009 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Budapest, Feb 9 (DPA) Romanian handball international Marian Cozma was killed and two of his teammates injured in a knife attack outside a Hungarian nightclub early Sunday.
The slaying has stunned international handball fans and sent shockwaves throughout Hungary, where recent months have seen a growing sense of public unease over a rise in violent crime.

Cozma, the tall star of Hungarian team MKB-Veszprem, was stabbed in the heart in following an altercation at a local night club in Veszprem, 80 kilometres from Budapest.

The 26-year-old, who was also a member of Romania’s national team, was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

A group of MKB-Veszprem players and friends had been celebrating the birth of a team member’s child at a night club when an argument with another large group spilled out onto the street.

“The players were behaving normally when a group of about 30 attacked Cozma as he danced with his girlfriend,” said Akos Hunyadfalvy, team president.

Hungarian Justice Minister Tibor Draskovics described the crime as a matter of national importance.

“The crime on Sunday morning was not only an attack against the victims and sports fans in Veszprem, but also against public order and safety in Hungary,” Draskovics said.

MKB-Veszprem’s Croatian goalkeeper Ivan Pesic, 23, was also stabbed in the fracas and had to undergo lifesaving emergency surgery to remove a damaged kidney.

His Serbian teammate Zarko Sesum was kicked unconscious after rushing to Cozma’s aid and taken to hospital with a fractured cheekbone.

“Zarko Sesum is out of danger and his condition is stable,” Veszprem hospital director Jeno Racz said, while adding that Serbian player’s injuries will require reconstructive surgery.

Racz told MTI that the operation on Pesic went well and that he was “no longer in danger”.

A crowd of about 1,000, many wearing MKB-Veszprem scarves, gathered in front of the town’s sports arena for a torchlit vigil that was mirrored in several other towns and cities across Hungary.

Cozma’s father travelled to Veszprem when he learned of the death of his son.

“He never hurt anyone, and yet this was how he had to die,” the distraught father said on Hungarian television.

Spokesman David Daroczi said the Hungarian government was confident that the perpetrators would quickly be brought to justice.

“A large-scale investigation is under way, and a large force has been mobilised to maintain public order and safety,” Veszprem police chief Zoltan Bolcsik told reporters.

The police are currently analysing CCTV footage from inside the nightclub and the street outside.

The mayor of the picturesque town said Veszprem was known as an “island of tranquility” where there has been no serious violent crime for years.

“This is a catastrophe, and almost impossible to take in,” Janos Debreczenyi said.

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