Fear spreads with sniper still at large

More than 20,000 Euros are promised for information exposing a sniper who is currently creating fear in Vienna.

The single perpetrator or gang has injured 14 people since 25 August at different locations in numerous districts. In three more cases, cars were damaged. The most recent attack was registered on 16 September. Now the Federal Crime Office (BK) promised 20,000 Euros for people providing information leading to the arrest of the offender. Another 2,000 Euros would be paid by a private association close to the capital city’s police forces.

A similarly high amount was offered only in the missing person case of Julia Kührer when officials promised 25,000 Euros. The girl disappeared aged 16 in 2006. Skeletons identified as being the teen were discovered in a cellar in Dietmannsdorf only a few kilometres from her Lower Austrian hometown of Pulkau last June.

Viennese police announced that a small, bright-coloured car was spotted close to where people were injured with gas- or air-powered weapons. Apart from this clue, investigators kept tight-lipped about potential leads. They revealed having admitted “lots of information” from residents of the city. Some of it was conclusive while other reports led nowhere, according to a spokesman. Newspapers write that the issue has already outdone the changing weather of these days as the number one topic of people’s conversations. Some papers claim the offender must be a madman, while others speculate he could have an accomplice driving him around.

Police explained they did not order clinic doctors to report shot wounds as Vienna’s populace “are made aware sufficiently about the possible threat” by the coverage through the press, radio and TV stations and internet platforms. Officials appealed to people with suspicions to keep coming forward to nab the criminal.

Weapons powered by air or gas as used by the “Sniper of Vienna” can be acquired by everybody aged 18 or older in Austria and most other European countries. Experts explained that being hit by a bullet fired with such a gun or rifle usually caused sometimes intense but always short-term pains. Severe effects on people’s health were only possible if being attacked from close range or hit in the eye and other sensitive areas, they added.

Cornel Binder-Krieglstein, a leading psychologist said, today (Fri) the offender “is not acting out of emotion. The person plans his actions. He or she must make sure of the conditions and prepare the weapon and ammunition.” The head of the Association of Austrian Psychologists (BÖP) added the attacker probably had no functioning social environment like a family or a sports club. Binder-Krieglstein warned that the offender had already crossed an inhibition threshold.

The BÖP chief said: “The decisive question is: ‘Why is he or she doing this?’ Maybe the person is in need of taking it to another level – especially if he or she carried out an attack without being caught.”

Karoline Roshdi, a German criminal psychologist, told the Kurier newspaper the wanted criminal could be very isolated and unemployed.

Eva Mückstein, who heads the Federal Association for Psychotherapy, described the attacker as someone “likely to have destructive fantasies and a deranged mind”. Speaking to the Viennese daily, she said: “It must be a person with sadistic tendencies who enjoys torturing and shocking others through destruction and infliction of pain.”

Mückstein pointed out today that the sniper was not a prankster but a “trophy hunter” with a narcissistic urge for attention. The expert explained such people believed to be very clever. “They are convinced of not getting caught due to the way they plan and carry out their offences,” she told the Kurier.

Asked why the series of attacks seemed to have stopped some days ago, Mückstein said: “The person may have collected his or her wits by reflecting on the incidents.”