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Not for the Faint-Hearted: Otýlie Vranská Was Still Alive with Her Head Almost Cut Off; Cruel Facts About the Murder on the Railway

Not for the Faint-Hearted: Otýlie Vranská Was Still Alive with Her Head Almost Cut Off; Cruel Facts About the Murder on the Railway
foto: Muzeum Policie ČR / Public domain/Otýlie Vranská
24 / 03 / 2024

The most brutal murder in Czech history, which still gives even experienced criminologists the creeps. The murderer sent the dismembered body parts by train. Who murdered Vranská and why?

The year 1933 attracted the attention not only of Czechoslovakia but of the whole world. If you think it was due to an extraordinary cultural, historical, or sporting achievement, you are wrong. It was a brutal murder.

This week marks 91 years since the tragic incident on the railway. A Slovak prostitute was the victim of a brutal murder. Her dismembered body was shipped in two suitcases. Police historians only discovered the murder of Otýlie after 90 long years. Good thing they didn't give up! More reading only for the hardened.

In 1933, two suitcases containing the dismembered body of Otýlie Vranská were found on trains in Bratislava and Košice. The brown, older suitcase, tied with ropes, was discovered by a railway employee the next day on a passenger train at the Bratislava railway station. Inside was a woman's head with a deep chop wound and her legs wrapped in bed linen with the letter K embroidered on them. A second suitcase, containing a woman's torso with seven stab wounds around the left breast and a severed arm, arrived in Košice the same day. How horrifying must have been the identification of the body by the two sisters of the murdered Otýlie living in Prague?

The criminologists, headed by Josef Vaňásek, immediately set out to find the murderer. The work of the criminologists was under the scrutiny of the extraordinary interest of society, which wanted nothing more than justice and the punishment of the murderer. But they didn't find him. They didn't give up. It wasn't until September 2023 that they came up with a concrete report. They believe the murderer was Staff Sergeant Josef Pěkný.

Muzeum Policie ČR / Public domain

What was the last night of her life like?

Radek Galash's team, who tried to reconstruct her last night, describes the really cruel facts. She was supposed to spend the evening downtown with Pěkný. The meeting was also attended by Kokles, a mutual acquaintance, who also had a crush on Pěkný. However, according to witnesses, he left the restaurant with his mistress. According to their statements, they stayed at the restaurant late into the night and had a good time. Pěkný and Koklesová then allegedly took a tram to Pěkný's apartment.

Vranská confided that she had to go and look for a place to stay; she did not want to wake up the landlady. The last place where she was seen alive was the entrance to the U Šmelhasů restaurant on Melantrichova Street. According to Galáš, it was fatal for her to go to see Pěkný at night. There, he said, a jealous scene occurred, and the sergeant-major murdered Vránská.

He approached her from behind, bowed her head, and cut her throat. This was followed by slashes to the head, which forensics say may have been blows of certainty. The autopsy proved the ruthless fact that Vranská was still alive with her head almost cut off. "We secretly hoped that someday Otýlie would have a marked grave and the perpetrators would be found," Galash said. He admitted that he had to revise and abandon some of his theories, but they achieved their goal.

Muzeum Policie ČR / Public domain

Researchers are convinced that Legionnaire Nice, with his experience fighting in World War I, knew how to slit the throat of the enemy. It was part of the training. "She was cut with her head bowed, the cut was made literally from ear to ear, even her tongue was partially protruded," a criminalist described the details of the brutal murder. He said the seven stab wounds to the chest around the left breast, which were not fatal, could have been carried out by Kokles. "He may have made her feel like an accomplice," the police museum chief suggested. It could also have been the intention to make the number of wounds evoke a ritual murder, and suspicion fell in another direction. There is now only speculation over who inflicted the seven stab wounds.

It was also interesting from the point of view of the testimonies at the time that the first interrogation of Josef Pěkný and Antonia Kokles after the murder differed in many details. It was not until the next day that Pěkný reappeared at the police station and modified his statement in line with Koklesová's.

A love triangle motive?

We have the method of murder, but now what about the motive? Vranská boasted to her sister that the sergeant had promised her marriage. If he didn't keep it, she could sue him. The other thing is that Vranská was a prostitute.

These two perpetrators were suspected by criminals 90 years ago. However, they didn't think a soldier could cut up a woman's body in this way. It seems they underestimated his anatomical skills. Only later did CSIs attribute this "skill" to military training. Researchers have attributed the mistakes of the criminologists of the time to inexperience and also to poor equipment.