Waltraud Wagner | Wicked Women
Austria’s Angel of Death
Crime Spree: 1983 – 1989
Lainz General Hospital was built in 1839 and was the fourth largest medical facility in Vienna, Austria. Pavilion #5 was reserved for patients in their late seventies or older and usually terminally ill. So when death came, it was not unexpected. But when it starts arriving at a more rapid pace than normal, onlookers start to grow suspicious.
In the spring of 1983, a 23 year old nurses aide, working the graveyard shift, decided to help death out a bit and hasten the demise of a 77 years old patient who was asking to have her misery ended. The aide, Miss Waltraud Wagner, obliged the old lady with an overdose of morphine. While in this first act of murder, Waltraud realized just how much she enjoyed the act of playing God. Holding the power of life and death in her hands gave her a rush she’d not realized before. It was far too wonderful a feeling to surrender and far too exciting not to share with her co-working friends.
Over the next few years Waltraud would recruit three accomplices, all working with her on the graveyard shift, to share her power with. First was a nursing school dropout named Maria Gruber. Then came Irene Leidolf. Stephanija Mayer would join the ranks around 1987 to complete the group.
Waltraud Wagner was the evil leader of this small cult. The sadistic Svengali, if you will, the influencer and controller of the wicked acts and deeds of her obedient disciples. She trained them on the proper techniques of giving lethal injections that would not be discovered. She taught them the water cure method, wherein the patients nose would be pinched closed, the tongue would be depressed and water would be poured straight down the throat of the helpless victim as they died an agonizing death. But, as the elderly often die of fluid on the lungs, suspicion was not raised when this appeared to be the cause of death.
Soon the four killers where murdering on Waltraud Wagner’s command. At the slightest sign of annoyance by a patient, Waltraud would give the order that “this one gets a ticket to God.” Those annoyances could be buzzing the nurses station for help, refusing meds, soiling bed clothing or snoring. It would all depend on Wagner, the master manipulator, the chief executioner, the Svengali. Who now lived or died, and when, was in her full control.
With four serial murders now working the grave yard shift, the death flow was becoming a bit obvious. By 1988 whispered rumors had it a killer worked among them on pavilion #5. So many were the rumors in fact that the ward was nicknamed the death pavilion.
In late 1988 the doctor in charge of the ward was suspended for not reporting the sudden surges in deaths on pavilion #5 in a more timely fashion or prompting an investigation into the rumors of a killer. He was fired shortly thereafter.
Yet onward the unchecked angels of death continued.
That was until February of 1989.
Early one February morning, the negligence, or perhaps arrogance, of the four sadistic women, ultimately led to their downfall.
It was no secret that the four nurses from the death pavilion enjoyed a few drinks together after their shift ended each day, reliving the ‘cases’ that had amused them, chortling over the victims terrified expression as death was thrust upon them by these demons in white.
However, on one of those particular morning drinking dates in late February, a doctor from another ward of the Lainz General Hospital was sitting close enough to overhear their conversation. The nurses were giggling over the agonizing death of elderly Julia Drapal. The old woman had battled with Wagner, calling the nurse a common slut and refusing to take her medication. For that she had been given ‘her ticket to God’ and now the women sat laughing over their beers about how they had administered the ‘water cure’ to her to end her life.
The doctor was horrified by what he was overhearing and went immediately to the local police. He relayed what he had witnessed and a six week long investigation ultimately led to the April 7th arrest of all four nurses of #5 Pavilion.
Confessions of Murder
While in custody, the women of the death pavilion collectively confessed to forty nine specific murders, Waltraud Wagner allegedly claiming 39 of those to be her own. She explained that those patients who got on her nerves were ‘dispatched a free bed with the good Lord’. She added that it was not always as simple as it would seem because many of the patients resisted being murdered. But, Wager would say, we were always stronger. It was ultimately we who decided whether those old fogies lived or died. Their tickets to God were long overdue in any case.
The Blame Game
There was speculation on exactly what the body count might truly be once Wagner’s accomplices started pointed guilty fingers at their sadistic mentor in a bid to save themselves.
Irene Leidolf stepped forward stating she was convinced that 100 patients were murdered by Wagner in the past two years alone. And who could know how many before she had been coerced into the crimes.
Stephanija Mayer admitted helping Wagner out on several homicides that Waltraud failed to mention. Indeed, as the case progressed to trial, Waltraud Wagner became increasingly reluctant to discuss her role in the murders. By late 1990, she had backed off her original claim of thirty-nine victims, claiming a maximum of ten patients killed to simply, and mercifully, ease their pain.
Chancellor Franz Vranitzky was unimpressed, calling the Lainz murder spree the most brutal and gruesome crime in Austria’s history. Nor were judge and jury sympathetic when the four defendants went to trial in March of 1991.
Prosecutors failed to sell their case on forty-two counts of murder, but they proved enough to do the job. Waltraud Wagner was convicted of fifteen murders, seventeen attempted murders, and two counts of aggravated assault, drawing a sentence of life imprisonment.
Irene Leidolf also got life, convicted of five murders and two bungled attempts. Stephanija Mayer earned fifteen years for a manslaughter conviction and seven counts of attempted murder, while Maria Gruber received an identical term for two attempted murders.
By 2008, because of good behavior, all four of these angels of death were released from prison. They changed their names and disappeared back into society.
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