Jack Unterweger

Jack Unterweger

Jack Unterweger
Birth name: Johann Unterweger
Also known as: The Pug Dumper
The Jesus Christ Jumper
The Vienna Strangler
The Poet of Death
Born: 16 August 1951(1951-08-16)
Judenburg, Styria, Austria
Died: 29 June 1994 (aged 42)
Cause of death: Suicide by hanging
Number of victims: 15
Span of killings: 1974–1992
Country: Austria
United States
State(s): California
Date apprehended: 27 February 1992

Johann “Jack” Unterweger (16 August 1951 – 29 June 1994) was an Austrian serial killer who murdered prostitutes in several countries. First convicted of a 1974 murder, he was released in 1990 due in part to a campaign by intellectuals and politicians, who regarded Unterweger as an example of rehabilitation. He became a journalist and minor celebrity, but within months of his release started killing again. He committed suicide following a conviction for several murders.


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Early life

Born to a Viennese mother and an unknown American soldier, Unterweger grew up in poverty with his grandfather, whom he described as a violent alcoholic. Unterweger’s aunt, however, contradicted this information about his grandfather, stating that Unterweger grew up in a poor but very loving and caring household.

He was in and out of prison during his youth for petty crimes, and for assaulting local prostitutes. In 1974, Unterweger murdered 18-year-old German Margaret Schäfer by strangling her with her own bra, and was sentenced to life, which means in Austria 25 years with 15 years to parole. While in prison, Unterweger became an author of short stories, poems, plays, and an autobiography, Fegefeuer – eine Reise ins Zuchthaus, which was adapted into a motion picture. Austrian intellectuals, including the author and 2004 Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, made petitions to pardon Unterweger. He was released on 23 May 1990, after the required 15 years of his life term, thought to have been successfully “resocialized”. Upon his release, Unterweger hosted television programs which discussed criminal rehabilitation.


Law enforcement later found that Unterweger killed six prostitutes in Austria in the first year after his release. In 1991, Unterweger was hired by an Austrian magazine to write about crime in Los Angeles, California, and the differences between U.S. and European attitudes to prostitution. Unterweger met with local police, even going so far as to accompany them on their patrols of the city’s red light districts. During Unterweger’s time in Los Angeles, three prostitutes — Shannon Exley, Irene Rodriguez, and Sherri Ann Long — were beaten, sexually assaulted with tree branches, and strangled with their own brassieres.

In Austria, Unterweger was suggested as a suspect for the prostitute murders. In the absence of other suspects, the police took a serious look at Unterweger and kept him under surveillance until he went to the U.S. — ostensibly as a reporter — observing nothing to connect him with the murders.


Law enforcement eventually had enough evidence for his arrest, but Unterweger was gone by the time they entered his home. After law enforcement chased him through Europe, Canada and the U.S., he was finally arrested by the FBI in Miami, Florida, on 27 February 1992. While a fugitive, he had called the Austrian media to try to convince them of his innocence. Back in Austria, Unterweger was charged with 11 homicides, one of which had occurred in Prague. The jury found him guilty of nine murders by a 6:2 majority (sufficient for a conviction under Austrian law at the time). On 29 June 1994, Unterweger was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

That night, he committed suicide by hanging himself with a rope made from shoelaces and a cord from the trousers of a track suit. He is reported to have used an intricate knot identical to that used on the murdered prostitutes. Because he died before he could appeal the verdict, under a technicality of Austrian law, Unterweger is officially to be considered as innocent, despite the original guilty verdict; Unterweger’s case was one of those considered in a review of this Austrian legal principle.


In a 2008 performance, actor John Malkovich, together with chamber group Musica Angelica, portrayed Unterweger’s life in a one man show entitled Seduction and Despair. [1]


External links

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