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CRIME

‘Voices’ told mother to kill five-year-old son

A 25-year-old Viennese woman who killed her five-year-old son in July, saying that she heard voices from the TV telling her to do so, has been ruled as unfit to stand trial by Vienna’s criminal court and is being treated in an institution for mentally ill offenders.

'Voices' told mother to kill five-year-old son
The apartment block where the boy was killed. File photo: APA

Psychiatric expert Karl Dantendorfer told the court that at the time of the murder the young woman was severely mentally disturbed and therefore cannot be held criminally responsible. She suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

The woman had been treated in the Otto Wagner psychiatric hospital for a few days in 2014 and had been prescribed medication. However, she had not continued to take it. “She had no control over her actions. She was completely removed from reality,” Dantendorfer said.

The woman murdered her son in their apartment in Favoriten. After they had had breakfast and taken a walk together she gave him some sleeping pills to sedate him, and then suffocated him with a pillow.

“The television spoke to me,” she told detectives after her arrest. She said she had “a strange feeling, as if I were God” and “felt powerful.” She had believed that her child was “evil” and that she “had to kill him”.

The coroner said that the high dose of sleeping medication she gave her son would have killed an adult.

She was found two days after the murder wandering in a confused state in Kahlenberg, near the Vienna Woods.

She confessed to the two policemen who found her that she had killed her son, and told them she had been staying in a Bed and Breakfast for the past two days.

For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

It’s always good to know your legal rights when living as a foreigner in Austria - including if you get in trouble with the police.

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Getting arrested is probably not high up on a list of must-dos for international residents in Austria, but it’s not a bad idea to know what would happen if you did.

In a nutshell, the process in Austria is similar to most other countries in that you have to be suspected of committing a crime to be arrested.

But what happens next? What are your rights? And how long can someone be held in custody?

Here’s what you need to know.

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When can someone be arrested in Austria?

If someone is suspected of being a criminal, they can be arrested by the police and taken to a police station for questioning. 

Under the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure, suspects must be informed of their rights as soon as possible, or at the very least before being interrogated by the police.

They also have a right to remain silent or to make a statement, as well as consult a lawyer.

According to Vienna-based attorney Evert Vastenburg, the initial detainment after arrest can last up to 48 hours while a judge decides whether a person should remain in custody or not.

A suspect can then be released on bail or under certain conditions, such as handing over a passport to police.

However, those suspected of serious crimes that typically lead to a prison sentence of 10 years or more (if found guilty) are almost always remanded in custody.

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

When is someone remanded in custody?

To be refused bail and remanded in custody, there must be serious suspicion that another crime could be committed. 

The judge also must believe there is no other way to deal with the suspect. For example, he/she needs to be readily available to the authorities for questioning.

Another valid reason to keep someone in custody past the initial 48 hours is the risk of someone absconding. In fact, Vastenburg says a flight risk is often assumed with people that do not live and work in Austria.

Other reasons to deny a suspect release are a risk that evidence will be destroyed, witnesses will be contacted, or there is a possibility that further crimes will be committed.

What happens if bail is denied?

If bail is denied and a person must be held in custody for more than 48 hours, they have to be legally represented by a lawyer.

If a suspect can’t afford to hire a lawyer, they will be appointed a Verfahrenshilfe (public defender) by the state.

The case will be then reviewed by a judge on a regular basis to decide if custody should continue.

The first review will take place after 14 days, then at one month and every two months, but a suspect can petition for release at any time.

READ ALSO: Six tourist scams to be aware of in Austria

How many foreigners are in Austrian prisons?

According to data from the Austrian Judiciary, the number of foreigners in Austrian jails as of June 1st 2022 was 4,332 – almost 50 percent of all prisoners.

In relation to the statistics, the Austrian Judiciary states: “The high proportion of foreigners is one of many challenges for the Austrian penal system. 

“In particular, with regard to successful rehabilitation, the fastest possible transfer to the countries of origin is encouraged.

The most common nationality of foreign prisoners in Austria is Romanian, followed by people from the former Yugoslavian states, Hungary, Nigeria and Turkey.

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