On this date in 1975, 23-year-old Olga Hepnarova was hanged at Prague’sPankrac Prison.
On July 19, 1973, a splenetic Hepnarova had lived out the road rager’s fantasy by barreling her three-ton Praga RN lorry into a tram stop* — killing eight elderly commuters.
Caught on the scene where her Truck of Death came to rest, Hepnarova’s authorship was not in question — only her culpability.
Three days after the bloodbath, she was telling police about her hatred of and alienation from her “brutal” fellow-beings, of beatings from her father and every form of humiliation and disrespect among her peers. This had been a lifelong theme with Hepnarova; the wounds of the world pierced her deeply, and she had spent time in a psychiatric institution after a teenage suicide attempt. In her short working life, she’d been unable to hold down any job for long. Truck-driving, tragically, was only her latest (and last) gig.
About the same time the tormented Hepnarova was owning her actions to the authorities, editors at two newspapers received nearly-identical letters she had posted before she made herself famous, touching much the same themes.
I am a loner. A destroyed person. A person destroyed by people… I therefore have a choice – to kill myself or to kill others. I choose – TO AVENGE MY PERSECUTORS. It would be too easy to leave this world as an unknown suicide. Society is too indifferent, rightly so. My verdict is: I, Olga Hepnarová, the victim of your bestiality, sentence you to the death penalty.
Doctors who examined her did not find her sufficiently off her rocker to have not known what she was doing, and the remorseless Hepnarova accepted the court’s verdict and sentence with equanimity. There are reports, however, that by the last day her placidity had crumbled and that she fought the execution team and had to be dragged, swooning, to the noose.
Hepnarova was the last woman ever hanged in Czechoslovakia. (Or either of its death penalty-less successor states, if you want to count it that way.)
* The street where this shocking scene was enacted is today named for Milada Horakova, who preceded Hepnarova on Pankrac’s gallows.