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The Zábrodí case

     In early November 1973, the investigators exhibited a further charge against Olga Hepnarová: of property damage. It was found out that the indictee had attempted to burn down a family estate which her father originally inherited from his parents in the village of Zábrodí, and which the family used for leisure and recreation. The incident itself happened in 1970, and, by the time of the investigation of the events from the Obránců míru avenue, was long considered as a closed case. The whole truth about it came to light during one examination of the indictee by the expert witnesses from psychiatry, when she, without any previous questioning, began to talk about the event. During the following examination, the expert witnesses then once again brought in this topic, verifying whether the incident actually took place or not, and then forwarded the whole case to the investigators. The investigators then asked the OO VB office in Červený Kostelec for all available data about the case, and, after questioning the indictee herself, they roughly came to this scenario:

zabrodifb.jpgIn the afternoon hours of 6.8.1970, the indictee visited one of the local drugstores on the Národní avenue in Prague and bought there a 1 l bottle of pure gasoline. After returning home, she took a bunch of old editions of the Lidová demokracie newspaper with herself, and, during late evening, once again left home and took a taxi to Náchod. After arriving in the outskirts of the city, she let the driver to wait there for her, and, walking through the villages of Dolní Radechová and Horní Rybníky, she headed to the village of Zábrodí, located some 6 km from Náchod. She arrived there in the morning hours of 7.8.1970, shortly before 2:00. After making herself sure that the husbands Marie and Václav H. (who lived there as subtenants and in turn kept the estate in good condition) were sleeping, she entered the courtyard through the small front-door and, using the newspapers and gasoline, ignited a double-wing door which served as an entrance to the right side of the estate (the whole object was divided into two parts: the left – residential part, and the right – originally a stable, but back then used as a shed). Since the shed’s attic served as a storage for hay, the indictee probably expected that the fire would soon spread through the dormer, ignite the hay and later the whole estate. The husbands (both aged above 70), however, were soon awakened by the noise and quickly distinguished the fire, so the whole damage was only a partially burnt doors with a cost of mere Kčs 50. Mrs. H. then woke up the indictee’s elder sister Eva, while her husband went to notify the OO VB office in Červený Kostelec about what had just transpired. After her unsuccessful attempt, Olga Hepnarová then returned to Náchod on foot and, using the same taxi, drove back to Prague. She paid the taxi driver a sum of Kčs 600 and arranged a further trip with him to Náchod on the following day; however, this second journey eventually didn’t take place as she later desisted from her second attempt to burn down the estate.

The actual investigation of the case in 1970 wasn’t particularly extensive. It was revealed that the bottle which Hepnarová left on the scene had a vignette with the name and address of the aforementioned Prague drugstore on it, which was why the investigators originally suspected Olga’s sister Eva from committing this crime. The suspicion then briefly fell on Olga’s father – the subtenant H. thought that he had set the estate on fire so that he could cash in a hefty damage compensation from the insurance company. In the end though, the investigator who was in charge of this case put it on hold because of insignificant damage and lack of available evidence.  And it would most probably have remained unsolved, had Olga Hepnarová not confessed to it three years later.

As a motive for committing this crime, she mentioned the frequent conflicts over the estate between her parents. The mother blamed the father for investing too much money to its reconstruction at the expense of their Prague household, and therefore wanted to sell the whole object and buy something less expensive in the vicinity of Prague. As a further motive, the indictee mentioned her revenge on her father, which, however, certainly wasn’t the case with her sister Eva, as she wasn’t aware of her presence in Zábrodí at all. She eventually found out about it only a couple of weeks later, when the investigators briefly suspected Eva from setting the fire.

It’s interesting to note that this whole incident in Zábrodí was preceded by a period which, from Hepnarová’s point of view, had to be definitely considered as a positive one. After a months-long odyssey of unsuccessful job searching in Cheb, she finally returned to Prague, where, according to her own words, her family received her “very well”, and for a couple of days everything seemed OK. After a certain period of time, however, the situation again drastically worsened, and she began to suffer from depressions from what she had referred to as “a return to everyday’s life” – just as it was the case three years later when she returned from her holiday in Slovakia. Needless to say that, on both of these occasions, it all culminated in committing of a crime.

Used abbreviations:

OO VB – Obvodní oddělení Veřejné bezpečnosti; District Public Security Service Headquarters