Austrian man jailed for gruesome killing of girlfriend

An Austrian man was sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday in Vienna for the brutal murder of his girlfriend in March, in a case that shocked the country.

A police car in Austria. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP
A police car in Austria. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

The 47-year-old will be sent to an institution for mentally abnormal criminals. The 35-year-old victim was beaten, strangled and then set on fire in a tobacconist’s store she ran in Vienna.

The murderer showed little remorse over the course of the trial, at one point saying: “She brought me that far, I didn’t want to do it.”

Prosecutors pointed to the fact that the murderer drove to the site with bottles of petrol in his car as proof the crime was premeditated. The victim was known to have complained about her boyfriend’s “pathological jealousy” just days before the attack.

She was rescued alive from the burning store by two passersby who noticed the fire and rammed the door open with a shopping trolley from a neighbouring supermarket.

The victim was in intensive care for four weeks before succumbing to her injuries. According to medical expert Christian Reiter, 75 percent of the woman’s skin had severe burns.

READ MORE: Outrage in Austria over ninth woman murdered in 2021

“There’s virtually no chance that someone could survive this,” Reiter told the court, adding that the woman would have been in “excruciating pain” until she died.

A court-appointed psychiatrist described the murderer as “totally devoid of empathy” and exhibiting a “pronounced narcissism”.

During the trial the court had been played a harrowing video of the crime, reconstructed from the shop’s CCTV camera. The victim’s family, who had been in attendance, left while the video was played.

The killing is just one of several high profile murders of women and girls, often at the hands of partners or ex-partners, which have led to heightened debate on how to combat femicide.

The government has pledged several measures to try to address the problem, including increased funding for organisations helping victims of violence.

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Austrian Josef Fritzl to be released to ‘normal prison’

Josef Fritzl, was imprisoned in 2009 for the rape and unlawful detention of his daughter in the Austrian village of Amstetten, has been released from psychiatric detention on Wednesday and is set to serve in a standard prison. Fritzl is eligible for early release in 2023.

Austrian Josef Fritzl to be released to ‘normal prison’

When making the decision, the Krems Regional Court held that Fritzl no longer posed any danger and could therefore be kept in a standard jail. 

Fritzl, who changed his name to Mayrhoff while in prison, was jailed in 2009 for several crimes including the unlawful imprisonment and rape of his daughter Elizabeth, who bore him seven children in a specially built soundproof basement. 

One of the children, a boy, died shortly after birth in 1996, upon which Fritzl burnt his body. 

Court spokesman Ferdinand Schuster told Austrian media on Wednesday that the decision was subject to an appeal to the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Vienna. 

Fritzl’s release into the mainstream prison system was decided upon by a three-judge panel under a probation period of ten years. 

The panel made its decision based on a mental health assessment produced in March. 

Fritzl stood trial in 2008 for the crimes, having been deemed sane and therefore faced mainstream charges. 

Fritzl is eligible for release as early as 2023 after receiving a life sentence. 

Austrian media pointed out on Wednesday that a 2023 release would see him serve nine years less than his daughter Elizabeth spent in Josef’s basement dungeon.