Divers search Danube for missing American

A cold case police squad has spent three days searching Vienna’s Danube Canal for the remains of American Aeryn Gillern, who went missing in mysterious circumstances in October 2007.

Divers search Danube for missing American
Aeryn Gillern. Photo: Family

He was 34 years old at the time and had been working for UNIDO in Vienna. Two eyewitness reported seeing him running naked from a gay sauna – the Kaiserbrundl – after reportedly being assaulted, although his last confirmed location was a sauna on Stephansplatz after work.

At the time police said that he was HIV positive and suicidal and that he jumped into the Danube and drowned – something his mother has said she finds hard to believe as he was very happy and had recently had an HIV test which showed he was negative.

She believes the Vienna police botched their preliminary investigation into her son’s disappearance, and then covered up their mistakes.

Initial police accounts said that a fisherman later saw a man floating face down in the river and that the department responded with divers, but did not recover a body.

This week, ten divers from the Cobra Team used specialized equipment including sonar, and searched the canal from Freudenau until Urania.

Mario Hejl, a spokesman for the Federal Criminal Investigation unit, said that the canal had been closed to ships and although the diving operation was dangerous Cobra had tried to keep risk to a minimum.

Hejl said that the likelihood of finding skeletal remains after eight years is slim, and believes that they could have become trapped in the canal’s groynes – concrete and steel structures which improve navigation and prevent erosion.

According to Joseph Gepp, an investigative journalist with Profil magazine, detectives have not given up on the case and are continuing to follow up leads and interview people.

Each year since 2008, Gillern's mother has held a vigil on October 29 outside the Kaiserbrundl to commemorate the disappearance of her son.

Aeryn Gillern’s disappearance is the subject of an award winning documentary film, called Gone.

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EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

Following the suicide of an Austrian doctor who received threats from Covid-19 anti-vaccination activists, the government has now launched a new campaign to help victims of online abuse.

EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

The Austrian medical community was left in shock in July when Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, a local doctor in Seewalchen am Attersee in Upper Austria, took her own life following months of online abuse.

Kellermayr, 36, had been targeted by anti-vaccination activists and Covid-19 conspiracy theorists for her out-spoken support of vaccines, and the abuse even included death threats. 

Her death prompted candlelight vigils and demonstrations in Vienna and the tragic story was picked up by news outlets around the world.

READ MORE: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

This led to calls for tighter laws against online bullying and the ability for perpetrators to be prosecuted in other EU countries – particularly as at least two of the people who are believed to have targeted Kellermayr are based in Germany, according to the Guardian.

The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) has even called for the creation of a special public prosecutor’s office to deal with “hate-on-the-net”, but this has been rejected by prosecutors and other political parties, as reported by ORF.

Instead, the Federal Justice Department has launched a new information campaign, website and hotline to help people dealing with online abuse.

FOR MEMBERS: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

What is in the new campaign?

Austria’s Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) said they have launched the campaign to raise awareness about the issue and to inform victims about the support available.

Zadic said: “It is important to me that those affected know that they are not alone in this situation and that the judiciary supports them with free psychological and legal process support.”

“You don’t have to cope alone with the extraordinary burdens that criminal proceedings can entail, for example through confrontation with the perpetrators.”

READ ALSO: Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Part of the support package is the new website Hilfe bei Gewalt (Help with Violence), which details how to access help from the authorities, as well as secure free legal advice and representation from a lawyer.

The website states the service is for victims of bullying and/or hate online, defamation, stalking, terrorism, incitement, sexual violence and robbery.

The service is designed to be anonymous with options to contact the Justice Department by phone or via a chat box. The website also lists contact details for regional support services in all provinces across Austria. 

The free (kostenlos) hotline for Hilfe bei Gewalt is 0800 112 112.

Useful links

Hilfe bei Gewalt

Austrian Federal Justice Department