Austria’s Most Wanted – Tibor Foco

On March 13, 1986, a young woman named Elfriede Hochgatter was found shot dead near rail tracks leading to Linz, Austria. The 24-year-old, whom her friends described as a nice but headstrong person, had worked as a prostitute nearby the place where she was found. A suspect was arrested the very next day. This seemingly straightforward murder and its aftermath would turn into one of the best known criminal cases of Austria. It is still not solved today.

Tibor Foco was born in 1956. His parents were business owners in Linz with roots in Hungary. Tibor is described as intelligent and extremely disciplined, and he enjoyed fast cars. His hobby turned into a career when he became a professional motorcycle race driver, where he had a number of successes. Despite that, the promising young man decided to open the “Bunny Bar” in the red-light district of Linz, apparently to finance his racing career. Maybe it was also a manifestation of his dark side, because he was said to look down on women and knew how to successfully manipulate him. Yet, he tried to do his business as much above ground as possible – a novum in the red-light district – which may have earned him some enemies.

When the body of Elfriede Hochgatter was found, Tibor Foco because the prime suspect from the start. Not only was his own bar next to Elfriede’s workplace, the two had had an altercation that had got physical in the night of the murder. And when Regine Ungar, Tibor’s mistress and prostitute in his bar, testified to the police that Tibor had forced her to shoot Elfriede, it was an open-and-shut case. Despite a number of inconsistencies, and the fact that Tibor Foco always proclaimed his innocence, he was sentenced to life in prison in March 1987. Tibor Foco was incarcerated in Stein near Linz, one of Austria’s high security prisons.

With his sentencing and imprisonment, the case should have quickly lost the public’s attention, but the opposite happened. None of the evidence found on the body or even the crime scene could be linked to Tibor Foco. Other evidence was misplaced or disappeared, and allegations of police misconduct surface. The prison director believed Tibor to be innocent, and even jurors openly questioned his guilt. But all applications for a retrial were denied.

Instead, Tibor Foco was allowed to study law at the university of Linz, which no other prisoner for life has ever been allowed to do. Here, Tibor’s iron discipline was a boon. He was a good student and model prisoner, and eventually got permission to attend selected courses in person, always accompanied by two policemen. But the lecture on April 27, 1995, he would miss.

On this day, he and his police escort arrived at the university at 8:25. One officer stayed in the car, the other accompanied Tibor inside. There, through some smart planning and quick thinking, Tibor was able to shake off his guard and retrieve a package left for him in a toilet. It contained the key to a nearby garage where clothes, money, and, most importantly: a motorcycle were waiting for him. By the time reinforcements arrived at the university, Tibor Foco was long gone. His escape – meticulously planned by himself from prison – took less than 10 minutes.

In the aftermath, old accusations of police misconduct and procedural errors quickly resurfaced. Regina Unger recanted her testimony and alleged that she was tortured. And Tibor’s alleged accomplice was granted a retrial and was fully acquitted in 1996. One year later, Tibor’s case was reopened, and he was even offered safe conduct if he returned, but he didn’t take the offer.

To this day, Tibor Foco tops Austria’s Most Wanted List at Interpol. Rumours place him in Eastern Europe or even farther away from Austria, but given his discipline, it is unlikely that he will ever be found. Today, many Austrians, including the victim’s late mother, believe Tibor Foco to be innocent.

This is just a short summary of one of Austria’s most spectacular criminal cases. Whether Tibor was really innocent or just a master manipulator, will probably never be found out. I have written a much longer article on Tibor Foco and his escape called “Austria’s Most Wanted: 27 Years and Counting” for the anthology The Best New True Crime Stories: Unsolved Crimes & Mysteries, which will be officially released on Tuesday.

The book contains 14 more unsolved crimes from all over the world, and I couldn’t put it down and breezed through it in a few days. I knew some of the presented cases already (like the case of Emanuela Orlandi from the Vatican), so I found it a little less interesting than the prior anthology I contributed to. However, it is a fascinating read in any case, so, if you’re into true crime, you should definitely pick this one up. Here’s the link to amazon. I hope you’ll like it!

Special Mention

Last September, the true crime anthology “Crimes of Passion, Obsession & Revenge” came out with an article of mine about the notorious case of Sada Abe. I mentioned it before on the blog. Recently, a friend of mine from Tokyo expressed interest in the book, so I sent her a link to it on amazon Japan. So far, so uninteresting. But on that amazon page, besides the usual blurbs and reviews, there are also short excerpts of two stories. One of them is mine.

I had no idea! I guess the publisher chose to do this as a way to drum up interest – after all, the crime I wrote about took place in Tokyo. But it is also included on a few other amazon pages in different countries, even if they have their own notorious case in the book… I have to say, I’m pretty excited about this!

Anyway, in case you haven’t bought the book yet, I highly recommend it. Especially the “Revenge of the Nagpur Women” case moved me. And if you did buy the book already – thank you very much – there’s another one in the pipeline with another article of mine., this time about an Austrian case. It will be out in September, and no worries, I’ll tell you more about it when the time comes.

Annoyed…

Do you have those days, too, when you just don’t want to go home? You don’t really want to go out either – in a “getting drunk” or “meeting people” kinda way – you just don’t want to go home.

I had one of these days today. After meeting one of my English students (the one who survived 10 days of COVID-quarantine-induced boredom), it was already 7 pm, but I didn’t feel like going home. I just wanted to go somewhere quiet, have a snack and do some writing; but mostly: I wanted to sit somewhere warm and cosy and just stare vacantly into space.

And I tried, valiantly. My favourite place for these evenings was too full, so I went elsewhere. But of course, they kicked me out from there at 8:00. Because we’re still having Corona, and you can only get sick if you stay out after that.

My student would strongly disagree. And let’s face it: with Omicron rampant everywhere (despite closed borders, mind you), we’ve lost that war already. And people don’t even get tested anymore – Kyoto city didn’t even bother sending test kits to my student’s family. Apparently isolating them all for 7 days (he got 10 days at home) and everything would be fine. I’m so sick and tired of all this. And I’m an introvert.

So, I had to go home after all. And I spent a lot of money shopping at a convenience store for food (greasy, sweet, and deliberately unhealthy) and drink (alcoholic), so that I could drown my sorrows at my own home from 8:30 on.

It’s just not the same. Grump.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, wherever you’re reading this!

I finished this year’s work today and I’m quite exhausted. There are so many little things to do, not just at work, but in the house as well… For next week, I’m planning to get things done, mostly diy house improvements. Heck, I still have stuff in boxes!

So, I’m not sure if I find the strength for a post (I know I promised you the step-by-step of office renovations with photos…) but I will be online again in the New Year. I hope I can show a few more pictures, including some of the beautiful house-warming presents I got from my friends.

Until then, I hope you can get some rest over the holidays. Take care!

No Post Today…

…it wasn’t always so….

Sorry, I just got a huge chunk of work on my table (yay!) plus some other things I’ll need to finish either by this weekend or the end of the month. So: No post today. Not much happening here anyway – Kyoto’s back in a state of emergency until September 12. For the 5th time now, if I counted correctly…

So, nothing to see here today, move right on 😉

Going Down, Down…

You’ve probably noticed my rather erratic posting schedule lately. Well, I’m not at all feeling well. For the last month at least, I’ve been in the depths of a serious bout of depression and things are not going well.

This is nothing new. I’ve had depressive episodes since I was a teenager. At several points in my life, things got so bad that all I wanted to do was stay in bed and read all day. A stack of books and a large jar of Nutella, and I was set. (To be honest, I still believe this is the setup for a perfect weekend at the best of times.)

But this time, it’s different. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to read, and eating – even chocolates – is optional. I’ve saved almost a quarter of my food budget last month because I didn’t feel like eating much beyond a sandwich or two a day. I don’t feel anything right now, there are no highs, no lows, there’s just apathy. I lie in bed, stare at the ceiling and that’s all.

It’s the first time I’m down quite so low and I wonder why. Maybe, because the other times, I still had a 9-5 job that forced me out of the house and among people five days a week. Many people do perk up with daily routines; not so much because it makes them happy to be among people, but because it keeps them from brooding too much. However, if you’re working from home most of the time – and there’s not much work to do right now, still thanks to Corona – it’s easy to fall into holes.

I’ve been thinking about what to do. At least, I’m keeping the handful of appointments I have every week. Even though I often just want to cancel, I make an effort to show up, and I usually am glad that I did, afterwards. I also try to do things I usually enjoy, on days I can muster the energy. I mentioned the Dainenbutsu Kyogen plays I say two weeks ago (final report is forthcoming, promise), and last Sunday, I went to the big “Ancient Egypt” exhibition with items from the Berlin State Museum. Tomorrow I’m planning a shopping spree – well, I am going to order shoes and a book. It’s nice to focus on something else every now and then.

But overall, those are just tiny islands sticking out of a vast ocean, and I’m mostly struggling to stay afloat in between them. So, forgive me if my posts remain a bit unpredictable for the time being. I am thinking of not forcing myself to write on Wednesdays and Sundays, but just when I’m feeling up to the task, and then scheduling the posts accordingly. But to be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure I want to commit to even that much right now.

Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. This too shall pass. Like all the times before…

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sorry for not writing this week, I have been quite busy with a big deadline looming… I hope I’ll be on schedule again next week. For now:

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Have some choccies like we do here in Japan and enjoy some quality time with your loved one – provided you’re allowed to meet them in person…

Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!
I wish you all quiet and peaceful holidays!

As you can see, this year’s Christmas cards come from my stash of ancient goodies. I hope my friends liked them anyway. 😉

As I am almost done with my work for this year – one more meeting plus the What’s up in Kyoto newsletter (which you definitely should subscribe to!) – and with Christmas Eve tomorrow, I’m calling my Christmas holidays already! I will take time off over New Year, and post again on January 6th with an update.

Please take care until then, stay healthy and safe, and I’ll see you next year!

Terror

Today, I thought I’d whine a bit about the weather – it’s that time of the year again after all! And then I woke up to something else yesterday…

On Monday evening, at around 20:00, there was a terrorist attack in Vienna. Four people were murdered by open fire on the streets of the inner city, 25 were injured, among them one policeman. One attacker, a 20 year old member (?) of ISIS was killed. Whether there are any more is subject of investigations. 

I’m happy to tell that all my friends who live in Vienna are safe and accounted for. But somehow, I don’t feel like writing about the weather today. Or anything else much, really.

You too, my beloved Austria?