Serial Killer Jack Unterweger

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Also known as The Vienna Stranger or The Prison Poet, Jack is one of the most outrageous serials I’ve EVER researched. The word impressed is not one you wanna use when discussing a serial killer, but it’s the best word I have. Dude was one heck of a manipulative con man – Ted Bundy had nothing on Jack! Come, sit down and let me tell you all about him!


Okay, so back in 1974 Jack murdered an 18 year old German woman named Margaret Schäfer; Margaret had been sexually assaulted and beaten with a steel rod, strangled with her very own bra, then dumped in the woods to rot. At trial Jack cried for the jury, swore he was sorry, and begged for a second chance. The jury didn’t buy it, they sentenced him to life.

Jack simply refused to accept this sentence. He absolutely would not be spending the rest of his life in prison, not with so many women in the world just waiting to be murdered! So, our killer made the best of his time, he got busy educating himself. Jack learned to read and write very well, he transformed himself from a petty thug to a cultured writer- a talent he soon realized could be used to his advantage. Jack quickly began writing children’s books, poems, and plays; they were good, Jack had a flare for writing. Soon radio stations began broadcasting the killer’s work, and in 1983 Jack wrote the ultimate sob story: this was an autobiography in which he told the world all about his horrific childhood. Mama had been a sex worker forever in trouble with the law, and she’d abandoned her son as a very young boy; Jack had been left him with her very abusive and alcoholic father. Grandpa liked to beat the boy bloody, he would also bring home sex workers and force little Jack to get drunk with them. After 7 years of this life, child services stepped in and took custody of the boy. From here on, Jack was shipped from abusive home to home. When he got a bit older, Jack followed in his mama’s footsteps – he had been in and out of jail for fraud and theft; sometime before his murder rap, he even became a pimp. In this book, titled Fegefeuer – eine Reise ins Zuchthaus ( in English, “Purgatory- A Trip to Prison”) Jack claimed he had seen his mother’s face whilst killing Margaret- he’d simply snapped. But he was grown now, saw the error or his ways. Jack was a changed man!

The book

As soon as this book hit the shelves it quickly shot to #1. The elite, celebrities, and especially the literary community were all very outspoken about Jack deserving a second chance. They campaigned for his release, claimed he was reformed; I mean, just look at his children’s stories! No cold blooded killer could possibly write like that; this was proof that education could change a person’s heart! Jack’s book was so great that a movie was made! Yes, it’s pretty safe to say that most of the country had been in Jack’s corner; on May the 23rd of 1990, after serving just 15 years of his life sentence, a killer walked free.

Suddenly Jack was a celebrity in his own right; he rubbed elbows with the elite, he was featured on magazine covers, a guest on all of the important talk shows, heck he even hosted one himself! Our killer was now living the good life, a life of privilege; dressed as prim and properly as possible Jack continued to write magazine articles. Everyone loved him, especially beautiful young women; he was the ultimate lady’s man, surrounded by them. But that just wasn’t good enough, something was still missing. Jack needed to kill.


The first victim after Jack’s release was discovered in September of 1990. She had been brutally beaten, sexually assaulted, strangled with her own stockings, posed in a degrading position and left in the woods. She had been covered in leaves, and left wearing nothing but socks and her wedding ring. Soon another victim was found, and another, and another… Jack killed 6 within a year of being released! Most of these women were sex workers, at least one was just a “fun-loving girl”. All had lost their lives in the same manner; sexually aassaulted(often with an object such as a tree branch), strangled with her own clothing (usually a bra, sometimes panty hose), posed nude, and left in the woods.

These murders were definitely the work of a serial killer, police knew this as the killer had tied the same fancy slip knot in every article of clothing he’d fancied as a murder weapon. Sadly, since the first few victims had been lying in the woods for several months, there just wasn’t much physical evidence to be tied to anyone; all investigators had were a few red fibers left on one victim’s remains.

Jack’s very distinctive slip knot

So Jack was now a journalist writing true crime articles for a well known magazine, and he was the one actually writing about these serial murders! At one point, he even interviewed the sex workers in the area where his latest victims were discovered! Jack questioned these unsuspecting women on exactly how afraid they were of this serial killer who had been targeting them, and asked them exactly what they were doing to protect themselves against him! Can you imagine what a thrill this must’ve been? Serial killers love to immerse themselves in the havoc they create, that’s why they often show up at the crime scene, funerals, or even insert themselves into the case somehow. They get off on this, and it is extremely hard for them to stay away. But I digress.

In June of 1991, Jack flew to Los Angeles, California, to write an article about the differences in the way sex workers were treated in the States vs Austria. In between killing 3 American prostitutes, a very ballsy Jack actually went on ride alongs with the Los Angeles police! Guess who he chose to tag along with? Those who patrolled the city’s known red light district, of course! Really, you just can’t make this stuff up!

Jack hadn’t been a suspect in the murders until a retired detective noticed the similarities in the killer’s first murder and the three they had on their hands in the short time frame since he’d arrived in town. Come to find out, he fit the description of the man which two of the victims were last seen with before they met their demise. Meanwhile, Austrian police were also looking into Jack; they’d searched his property and found a red scarf which perfectly matched those fibers found on one of their own victims.

When Jack returned home to Austria, he was tipped off by a friend that he was wanted for several murders. Vowing to never return to prison and to commit suicide if he did, Jack and his 18 year old lover fled to Canada, then they snuck into the US. They traveled to Miami, Florida; destitute again, Jack talked his young girlfriend into selling herself while he concentrated his efforts on writing a multitude of letters to everyone important back home; the killer pled with them to believe in his innocence. He claimed that the police were stumped, so they were pointing the finger at the likely suspect! Many did continue to support him, including his literary friends.

In February of 1992 American police finally caught up with their killer; just 2 years after his release, Jack was extradited back to Austria where he would stand trial for his 11 known murders: one in the Czech Republic, 3 in the US, and 7 in Austria. Austria can and will try a person for murders not committed on their soil, in case anyone is wondering.

This was said to be Austria’s Trial Of The Century, everyone was interested! Jack claimed that they had the wrong man; he could prove he’d slept with 150 women within his few short years of freedom, why in the world would he need to kill any sex workers? Again Jack plead with the jury; again the jury didn’t buy it.

Jack was found guilty and sent back to prison where he promptly made good on his promise to never live as a prisoner again. On June 29th of 1994, just 4 years after he was first released, Jack hung himself with the drawstring of his pants. Ironically the man’s suicide proved his guilt once as for all: the same intricate slip knot which had been tied in his victim’s clothing was used to make the slip knot in Jack’s drawstring.

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