A Mother Asks: What Became of Gay Son Missing in Austria?
A gay man working for the U.N. in Vienna, Austria, has been missing since October 31, 2007; his mother, a resident of Cortland, NY, fears that he is dead, but the Viennese police seem to be disinterested, or worse.
The Ithaca Journal reported in an Aug. 26 article that Kathy Gilleran is trying to get a lead on the whereabouts, and the fate, of her son, but stories from Vienna are conflicting and the local police have been less than helpful.
Ms. Gilleran, a former Ithaca police officer herself, believes that police in Vienna are not interested in helping determine what became of her son, Aeryn, 34, an employee of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, because he was gay.
Indeed, Gilleran claims that a gay member of the Viennese police quietly, and unofficially, told her that a search of the Danube river, prompted by a tip about a man matching Aeryn's description floating face down in the water, never actually took place, despite an official police report indicating that the search had been conducted by scuba divers without result.
Moreover, that police report, which Gilleran had a look at, contained troubling inconsistencies, such as listing the total search time as only half an hour.
The report of a body in the water was made by a fisherman who described a dead male with a bald head; the fisherman's report followed earlier reports of a man fitting Aeryn's description and wearing only a towel being chased through the city streets.
Even the fisherman's report seems to be in doubt; PageOneQ pageoneq.com/images/perm/blogadsgp.gif&imgrefurl=http://pageoneq.com/news/2008/gilleran081408.html&h=64&w=120&sz=4&hl=en&start=3&usg=___o8cDPM206LOBvfw1MWIR-RA1UU=&tbnid=0iRDsvbx9quQzM:&tbnh=47&tbnw=88&prev=/images%3Fq%3DAeryn%2BGilleran%26gbv%3D2%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG reported that the story had fluctuated from a fisherman seeing a body in the water to someone hearing a scream or a splash.
PageOneQ said that Gilleran suspects that something violent may have taken place at a gay sauna, and that a cover-up may be happening. PageOneQ also said that accounts varied, depending upon who was doing the telling: the police or civilians.
The only hard and fast traces of Aeryn Gilleran that have come to light since he went missing are the belongings he left behind in a dressing room at the Viennese gay sauna where some sort of incident involving Aeryn evidently took place. Among the recovered possessions were Aeryn's passport and cell phone, his clothing, and a medical report showing him to be HIV negative, the Ithaca Journal article said.
Aeryn had had an unfortunate encounter with the Viennese police before his disappearance. He had come to aid of a purse-snatching victim in the Vienna subway by collaring the thief; when police approached, they demanded to see Aeryn's subway ticket. When Aeryn was unable to produce the ticket, the article said, the police officers attacked and assaulted Aeryn.
Aeryn lodged a complaint about the incident; Kathy Gilleran believes that this, plus anti-gay bias among Viennese police, accounts for what looks to her like stonewalling in the case of her missing son.
The Viennese police have told Kathy Gilleran that Aeryn committed suicide, although there has been no further official inquiry since the purported search of the Danube river, and no body has been found.
It took intervention by U.S. officials even to prod authorities in Vienna to file a missing persons report in the case, the Ithaca Journal reported.
Gilleran has flown to Vienna several times looking for leads in the disappearance of her son, and though people have recognized a photo of Aeryn, no one has offered any useful information.
The article quoted Gilleran as saying, "I just need to bring him home.
"But I know that this is it... Unless I can get people interested in this, people seeing that this is wrong," added Gilleran.
The local press has not been any help, either: a story about the towel-wearing man being chased through the city bore the headline, "Naked U.N. Diplomat Runs Through Streets of Vienna," and stories about his disappearance called him "emotionally unbalanced" on account of his homosexuality, the Ithaca journal reported.
The Ithaca Journal article recounted a number of factors that make it seem unlikely that Aeryn would have taken his own life, including conversations he had recently had with his mother about bringing her to Vienna to live with him for an extended period, the purchase of plane tickets for trips he never had the chance to make, an offer to model for a magazine, and a recent win of the title Mr. Gay Austria.
Professionally, Aeryn's life was on track, as well: he had won a spot on the United Nations Industrial Organization Staff Council.
The article compared the Viennese authorities' treatment of the Aeryn's case, and his mother, to similar cases in America, noting that Ed Vallely, the Chief of Police in Ithaca, had related how his department goes out of its way to assist out-of-town family members when a missing person report is filed.
Gilleran is not giving up hope that her efforts will pay off. She plans to return to Vienna, and she's hoping that a contact provided to her by the office of Congressman Michael Arcuri will be able to help.