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Tributes to Austrian doctor found dead after COVID-19 anti-vax hate campaign

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By Alexandra Leistner  & Alasdair Sandford
A candlelit memorial for Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, the deceased doctor who reported receiving threats from opponents of COVID-19 restrictions and vaccines, Vienna, Aug. 1, 2022.
A candlelit memorial for Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, the deceased doctor who reported receiving threats from opponents of COVID-19 restrictions and vaccines, Vienna, Aug. 1, 2022.   -   Copyright  ALEX HALADA / AFP

Thousands of people turned out in Vienna on Monday night to pay tribute to an Austrian doctor, who authorities say committed suicide after months of death threats from opponents of coronavirus restrictions and vaccines.

Dr Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, who described herself as a "passionate country doctor", was found in her surgery last Friday morning at Seewalchen am Attersee, about 60 kilometres northeast of Salzburg.

Investigators ruled out the possibility of foul play, but would not comment on the content of suicide notes that prosecutors had earlier confirmed had been found.

At the end of June, Kellermayr announced on social media and on her website that she was closing her practice, citing security concerns after seven months of threats. 

She said she had already spent more than €100,000 on security costs, which she noted "exceed the profit of a family doctor's practice many times over".

Threatening letters the doctor published revealed the insults she received, including death threats to her and her employees. She turned to the authorities but claimed she was not taken seriously. There was also a lack of support from politicians.

In mid-July, Kellermayr said she was permanently closing the practice because she couldn't "offer any perspective for whether or when it will be possible for us to work under ‘normal’ circumstances".

In February, Austria became the first country in Europe to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all people aged over 18. The move was soon suspended by lawmakers before police were due to enforce it, and was finally scrapped in June.

In Vienna on Monday evening, many people converged on St Stephen's Cathedral to pay their respects to Kellermayr, lighting candles or illuminating their mobile phones while the church bells rang.

"In many places across the country, people come together to remember Dr Lisa-Maria Kellermayr," Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen posted on social media. "To set a sign for cohesion and against hate together."

Earlier, he tweeted to say that Kellermayr had been "committed to healing people and to protect against diseases. She championed science" and was in favour of "vaccinations and for a careful handling of the pandemic".

"Let's stop this intimidating and scaremongering. Hate and intolerance have no place in our Austria," he added, commenting on the threats the doctor received.

The president's thoughts were echoed by Austria's health minister. "As a doctor, she dedicated her life to the health and well-being of others. Death threats against her and her staff were a brutal reality. Hatred against people is inexcusable. This hatred must finally stop," Johannes Rauch said.

In June, prosecutors in the city of Wels in Upper Austria closed an investigation of a German suspected of threatening Kellermayr, saying German authorities were responsible for the case, the Austria Press Agency (APA) reported. Police in Austria continued an investigation against persons unknown.

The Medical Association of Upper Austria said Kellermayr had been offered help and a plan had been discussed on how to continue her practice, according to APA.

Additional sources • AP