Franz Fuchs

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For the Austrian footballer and manager, see Franz Fuchs (footballer).
Franz Fuchs
Born (1949-12-12)December 12, 1949
Gralla, Austria
Died February 26, 2000(2000-02-26) (aged 50)
Graz, Austria
Cause of death
suicide (?)
Residence Gralla, Austria
Nationality Austrian
Other names The Austrian Unabomber
Known for sending 5 waves of letter bombs from December 1993 till December 1995
Criminal charge
Murder, Attempted murder
Criminal penalty
Life imprisonment
Criminal status
Deceased
Motive Xenophobia
Conviction(s) Murder, Attempted murder (10 March 1999)
Capture status
Deceased
Killings
Victims 19
Span of killings
1993–1995
Country Austria
Killed 4
Injured 15
Weapon(s) Improvised explosive devices
Date apprehended
1 October 1997

Franz Fuchs (12 December 1949 Gralla, Austria – 26 February 2000 Graz, Austria) was a xenophobic Austrian terrorist. Between 1993 and 1997 he killed four people and injured 15, some of them seriously, using three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and five waves of 24 mailbombs in total.

Criminal psychologists characterized him as a highly intelligent but socially inept loner. His designated targets were people he either considered to be foreigners, or organisations and individuals "friendly to foreigners".

Mail bombs and IEDs[edit]

In December 1993 he started his first wave of mailbombs. Early victims were the priest August Janisch (because of his help for refugees), Silvana Meixner (ORF journalist for minorities), and the Mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk, who lost a large part of his left hand in the explosion. Other mailbombs which were discovered and neutralized were targeted at Helmut Schüller (humanitarian organisation Caritas), the Green politicians Madeleine Petrovic and Terezija Stoisits, Wolfgang Gombocz and Minister Johanna Dohnal.

While attempting to disarm an improvised explosive device found at a bilingual school in Carinthia, police officer Theo Kelz lost both his hands on 24 August 1994. (Kelz subsequently became the first Austrian to receive a double hand transplant, and made an impressive recovery.) [1]

Franz Fuchs claimed responsibility for his attacks in a letter to the foreign minister of Slovenia in September 1994, in the name of the "Salzburger Eidgenossenschaft - Bajuwarische Befreiungsarmee" (Bajuvarian Liberation Army). In a number of subsequent letters, he tried to give the impression of a larger organisation with different units. However, from the second wave of mailbombs in October 1994 not a single one went off.

On 5 February 1995, four Romani were killed in Oberwart with an improvised explosive device which was attached to a sign that read "Roma zurück nach Indien" ("Romani back to India").

Between June 1995 and December 1995 he sent three more waves of mailbombs. Wave number three was targeted at TV host Arabella Kiesbauer, Dietrich Szameit (vice-mayor of Lübeck) and a dating agency. Kiesbauer and Szameit did not open their letters themselves and were not hurt. Wave number four was targeted at two medics and a refugee aid worker, Maria Loley. One medic from Syria and Maria Loley were injured; the other mailbomb, targeted at a South Korean medic was discovered and neutralized. Two mailbombs of wave number five detonated early in mailboxes, the remaining two were discovered and neutralized. This was the last incident before Fuchs was arrested.

Arrest, trial and death[edit]

At this stage Fuchs had obviously become highly paranoid. On 1 October 1997 near his residence in Gralla, he followed two women in a car whom he believed were observing him. When police attempted to question him on what they believed was a routine case of stalking, he produced another IED which he had kept in his car, and detonated it in his hands in front of the policemen. His suicide attempt failed, but he lost both hands, and also injured a nearby police officer. Fuchs was arrested without giving further resistance and, after a trial which many in Austria felt had fallen short of making all attempts to uncover deep details, was sentenced to life in prison on 10 March 1999. Through his unruly behavior during the trial, Fuchs had repeatedly forced his removal from court proceedings.

On 26 February 2000, Fuchs was found hanged with the cable of his electric razor in his prison cell at Graz-Karlau Prison. The prison physician determined it to be a suicide.

Unresolved questions[edit]

Although the case was officially closed after Fuchs had been sentenced, and although the "Bajuvarian Liberation Army" was determined to never have existed as a terrorist organization in the meaning of the term, doubts remained whether Fuchs had actually committed his actions without any support or tacit knowledge from sympathizers.

A thorough search of the two rooms in his parents' house where Fuchs had lived revealed more IEDs but no traces of the equipment which he would have needed to produce and handle the unstable explosives (including mercury fulminate and nitroglycerol) contained in his IEDs.

Most of Fuchs' "confession letters" exhibited an aptitude at verbal expression for which he was not known. Some had referred to internal affairs in police procedures that were not accessible to the general public.

Even more doubts remain concerning Fuchs' death. How exactly a man without hands (Fuchs consistently refused having his advanced prosthetic arms fitted to him) and under almost constant video surveillance could accomplish the manipulations required to convert an electric cable into a noose sufficiently robust for successful self-hanging was never properly explained. Moreover, no prisoner (especially not an obvious borderline personality disorder case with a very recent record of suicidal behaviour) is supposed to be in possession of anything (including belts and even shoestrings) that could serve this purpose – most certainly not an electric cable.

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