The Vienna Strangler and the Crime Writer

Nov 1, 2010 - by Mark Pulham

Johann "Jack" Unterweger

Johann "Jack" Unterweger

With the help of future Nobel Laureate Elfriede Jelinek and other prominent Austrian literati, Jack Unterweger wrote his way out of a lifetime sentence for murder. Paroled in 1990, and now a famous crime writer himself, he embarked on a wide-ranging killing spree, murdering women in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Los Angeles

by Mark Pulham

Vienna. People sitting in cafés eating Sachertorte, listening to the music of Mozart and Strauss, walking through the Vienna Woods, and if you are a film buff, thinking about The Third Man. Vienna is synonymous with culture. It is not the first place anyone thinks of when you mention serial killers. Yet in the spring of 1991, particularly in the red-light district, the fear of a killer on the loose gripped the city.

It began on April 8, 1991, when a young prostitute named Silvia Zagler vanished. When last seen, she had been standing on her regular corner around 10:30 p.m. Sabine Moitzi worked in a bakery during the day. At night, unknown to her husband, she occasionally boosted her income by working as a “secret prostitute,” which meant that she was not, as is required by the laws of Vienna, registered with the Office of Health. Eight days after Zagler’s disappearance, Sabine’s friend, Ilse, dropped the 25-year-old woman off near the rail yard of the West Train Station. A short while later, she disappeared.

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