This website had been created by friends of Peter and Katharina after we reported them missing to international police on Feb. 6, 2006. During the following three months of the search operation, we have received a lot of information that – had they known it – might have helped them to protect themselves against this crime. We are going to continue operating this webpage to share this information with backpack tourists in order to warn them and prevent similar crimes.
In November 2005, Katharina Koller and Dr. Peter Kirsten Rabitsch started their trip around the world with the vision to see fascinating countries, experience different cultures and get to know the world a little closer. It was a trip they had long been looking forward to and they had long been preparing for and a trip they were not to return from alive.
Katharina and Peter were last seen alive on the bus from Copacabana to La Paz, Bolivia, on Jan. 26, 2006 when they got off the bus from Lake Titicaca. A couple of hours later, money was withdrawn from both their bank accounts. Upon arrival in La Paz, Peter and Katharina had fallen victim to a common ploy.
In this, several criminals cooperate to credibly trick their victims and kidnap them: At the terminal stop of a public distant line bus, a fake tourist makes contact with backpackers and offers to share a taxi. Or a fake taxi waits for tourists when they get off the bus and soon after they embark a fake tourist stops the taxi and joins them. After a short drive, the taxi is stopped by a fake policeman pretending to look for illegal drugs. The "tourist" claims to carry drugs on him/her and all are escorted to a fake police station where the tourists are forced to give away their bank cards and the PIN-codes under threat of violence.
For the purpose of the kidnapping, the criminals had rented a flat where they kept Katharina and Peter and Rafael Hernandez Herran, a Spanish backpack tourist, whom they had kidnapped some days before. For 10 weeks, the families and friends of Katharina and Peter as well as a private rescue team under Hilik Magnus and a Bolivian police corps searched for Katharina and Peter. In the end, a criminal in jail confessed that Katharina and Peter had been killed and buried. On April 4th, their dead bodies were retrieved and brought back to Austria. Not far from their grave, Rafael’s body was found on April 15th.
Of the 6 direct murderers, three have been sentenced; two are still in freedom three years after the crime.
The criminal gang that kidnapped Katharina and Peter is one of many organized gangs that carry out kidnappings and bankcard robberies on a ‘professional’ basis. We have received many emails by backpack tourists from all over the world. They have reported similar experiences of bankcard kidnappings in countries of South America and indeed other poor countries in the world; this new form of organised crime is spreading.
The Kidnapping of Katharina & Peter and the search for them was followed with high public empathy in both, Austria and Bolivia. We are grateful to the many people that helped.
Katharina and Peter, on their trip around the world
Katharina & Peter had been couple in love and affection for some years. With a curious and open mind, they had started their journey around the world.
We miss you terribly, wish you were here.
Rafael too, has been torn out of his life and out of the lives of his family in Spain and his friends in Sweden. They miss him painfully.