Olga Hepnarová - the last woman executed in Czechoslovakia.

 

Background.

Olga Hepnarová was born on June 30, 1951 to a middle class family in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Her father was a bank clerk, her mother a dentist. She did quite well at school but as she grew older she found it hard to communicate with her parents and classmates. Later she claimed that she could hardly approach people and that the world was her enemy. Olga’s only known photo.

 

In 1964, at the age of 13, she attempted suicide by taking an overdose and spent a year in a psychiatric hospital.  The rest of her teens passed without incident, but, as a young adult she became obsessed by feelings of hatred for both her family and society as a whole, and was reported to have heard voices, according to several sources.

 

The crime.

On June 7th, 1973, she sent a letter to two newspapers explaining her planned action, as revenge for all the perceived hatred against her. Due to the slowness of the postal system the letter did not arrive until two days after the crime.

In the letter she stated "Ladies and gentlemen, it is not just a letter, it is my declaration. I am writing it as I do want you to appreciate what I am going to do. I do not want you to doubt about my sanity... I am going to steal a bus today and run into a crowd of people at full speed. It will happen somewhere in Prague 7. I intend to kill people. I know I will be on trial and punished".
"It would be easy to leave this world as an unknown self-murderer. The society is too pushy and it is too difficult to judge... Here is my judgment: I, Olga Hepnarová, the victim of your beastliness, sentence you to death by running over."

 

On 10th July 1973, Olga rented this truck, and spent nearly half an hour circling a busy tram stop waiting for a satisfactory number of people to gather there. When some 25 people werepresent she drove the lorry straight into them at speed. Three of her victims died at the scene, two more later that day, and another three died within days of the attack. Six more were badly injured and a further six slightly.  These photos 1 & 2 show a scene of absolute carnage.

Ironically the street on which the crime occurred has since been re-named after another hanged woman, Milada Horakova, now a Czech heroine.

 

Arrest and trial.

She was arrested and told detectives that it was her intention was to kill as many people as possible. She expressed no regret for her actions.

In her statement she said "There were no trams, no cars, nothing was in my way. I said to myself that was the right time to do it. I drove on the pavement, went on and ran into the crowd of people knocking them down."

 

On remand she was examined by prison psychologists who were not able to diagnose her as legally insane.

She came to trial in 1974 at the Municipal court in Prague.  She was represented by an experienced lawyer but refused to cooperate with him, insisting on her sanity.

She tried to make a speech accusing society.  "If the society destroys individuals, individuals can destroy the society."  "I wanted to take my revenge on the society, including my family, because they are my enemy".  "Knowing that I managed to do it, I felt a kind of release and satisfaction."
On April the 6th, 1974, she was found guilty of all eight murders and sentenced to death by hanging.

Her mother initiated an appeal to the Czech Supreme Court, but this was rejected and the sentence confirmed. The Supreme Court of the Czechoslovak Socialistic Republic carried out a judicial review which upheld the lower court’s ruling.  On March the 3rd, 1975, Gustáv Husák, the President of the Czechoslovac Socialistic Republic, refused her mother's plea for mercy and her execution was fixed for March the 12th, 9 days later.

Interviewed in prison, Olga told reporters that "I am not affraid of the death sentence, I do accept it"

 

Execution.

Olga was hanged on March 12th, 1975 in Pankrác prison, Prague. Despite what she had told reporters earlier, when the time came she was reportedly very afraid of dying.

The famous Czech writer, Bohumil Hrabal, interviewed the Pankrác hangman some years later, and he (the hangman) claimed that Olga had been resigned and fatalistic for most of her stay on death row, but that when the time came for her to die, she became hysterical, begged for her life, and lost control of her bodily functions as she was dragged kicking and screaming to the gallows. The hangman went on to say that the experience had traumatized him, and caused him to become totally disgusted with his job.

The gallows used for Olga’s execution and was installed in 1954 to replace pole hanging. Photo here.  In the execution room she was placed on the 32 inch square metal trap doors and the simple noose, tied to an iron bar projecting from the wall above her, placed around her neck.  When the hangman pulled the lever she dropped just a few inches and strangled to death. She was 23 years, 8 months and 10 days old and was the last woman to be executed in Czechoslovakia.

 

Back to Contents Page The last women executed in Europe