Image: Police outside a house in Strasshof, Austria
Ronald Zak  /  AP
Police guard a house in Strasshof, Austria, on Wednesday after a couple was found dead inside. An international arrest warrant has been issued for Josef Branis, a relative of 4 people who were shot dead in the Vienna suburb.
updated 7/2/2008 11:18:57 AM ET 2008-07-02T15:18:57

A manhunt was launched Wednesday for a man suspected of killing his brother, sister and their spouses in the same suburb where kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch was held for 8 1/2 years.

Josef Branis, 66, is suspected of shooting the two couples following a long-running family feud over rent that resulted in his eviction Monday from his sister's Vienna apartment, police in the eastern province of Lower Austria said.

The bodies were found in two houses in Strasshof, northeast of Vienna. Police said the murders likely occurred Tuesday.

Strasshof is a semi-rural community where Kampusch was held in a cramped underground cell for more than eight years until her escape in August 2006.

This week's quadruple homicide came to light when family members alerted police late Tuesday, saying they could not contact Branis or the other relatives, chief investigator Leopold Etz said.

A letter left by Branis resembles a will, Etz said. In it, Branis says he did not want his brother and sister, both in their 60s, or their spouses, at his funeral.

Etz said an international arrest warrant was issued for Branis amid speculation that he had fled by train. His bike was found close to a regional train station between Strasshof and the town of Gaenserndorf, the Austria Press Agency reported, citing another official. The area is not far from Austria's border with Slovakia.

Authorities believe the murders could be linked to Branis' eviction. The siblings apparently argued for more than a year about rent increases.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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