Husband found guilty of murdering Down’s wife

A 55-year-old Austrian man and his girlfriend have been found guilty of murdering the man’s wife, who had Down’s syndrome, during a holiday to Paraguay in 2011.

Husband found guilty of murdering Down's wife
Gerhard Freiherr Hansalik and Michaela Säulenfels. Photo: APA/ROBERT JAEGER

"The two defendants deliberately administered an overdose of painkillers to the 46-year-old woman in the autumn of 2011 in Paraguay," the judge said.

Gerhard Freiherr Hansalik was sentenced to life imprisonment, and Michaela Säulenfels (47) to 17 years.

The jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict, which the defence has said it will appeal against.

The couple plead not guilty. "There is no crime. The only crime is that we as a couple are sitting here in the dock," Hansalik said on Tuesday evening, before the verdict was given.

The pair were accused of killing Wendy Freiherr, from Lower Austria, in order to gain access to her savings which amounted to €80,000.

The prosecution said that for Hansalik it was purely “a sham marriage”.

The landlady of the house in Paraguay where the three had stayed told the court that she had assumed Hansalik and Säulenfels were married, and that Wendy Freiherr had been introduced as a “distant relative”.

Freiherr was buried in Paraguay on the day she died, her husband did not tell the South American authorities that he was her spouse, and he didn’t inform her relatives of her death.

However the defence said the case against the pair was based only on assumptions and that there was no evidence that the deceased was poisoned with painkillers.

The exact cause of her death could not be established, even after a four day trial and toxicology reports.

As it was not possible to exhume her body, a tissue sample was sent to Austria for analysis.

The coroner said that he believed an overdose of hydromorphone was the likely cause of death.

He said the active compound could be detected in the muscle tissue of the deceased, and that a dose of four tablets would  be fatal.


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Austria probes claim spyware targeted law firms and banks

Austria said Friday that it was investigating a report that an Austrian company developed spyware targeting law firms, banks and consultancies in at least three countries.

Austria probes claim spyware targeted law firms and banks

Microsoft’s security team earlier this week said it found that a malware called Subzero — developed by Vienna-based company DSIRF — was deployed in 2021 and 2022.

“Observed victims to date include law firms, banks and strategic consultancies in countries such as Austria, the United Kingdom and Panama,” it wrote in a blog entry on Wednesday.

Austria’s interior ministry said it had not received reports of any incidents.

READ ALSO: Austria wary of cyber attacks after personal data of foreign residents leaked online

“Of course, (intelligence agency) DSN checks the allegations. So far, there is no proof of the use of spy software from the company mentioned,” it said in a statement.

Austria’s Kurier newspaper cited DSIRF as saying that Subzero had not been misused and “was developed exclusively for use by authorities in EU states” and was not commercially available.

DSIRF did not immediately return a request for comment from AFP.

Austria’s interior ministry said it knew of the company but “has not had any business relationships” with it.

Last year several media outlets reported that governments around the world, including in the EU, had used Pegasus spyware made by Israel’s NSO Group to spy on opponents.

Budapest and Warsaw responded that the use of Pegasus was for legitimate national security reasons.