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Authorities covering up gay man's disappearance, says mother

by Nick Langewis

Austrian police are sweeping the disappearance of a gay American under the rug, charges the man's mother.

Aeryn Gilleran, a 34-year-old United Nations employee from upstate New York working in Vienna, has not been seen or heard from since October 29, 2007. His mother, Kathy, has reached out to media outlets and PFLAG to tell of meeting "constant stonewalling, rudeness and even outright lies," as she told the Cortland Standard. One investigator told her during her six-week visit to Vienna that since Aeryn was a gay man, he was emotionally unstable and probably committed suicide.

Conficting accounts between police and civilians have Aeryn visiting a sauna the night of October 29, a fight possibly breaking out with a group of tourists. A scream may have been heard around the time he last spoke to a classmate on the phone. Patrons at the sauna recognized him by the picture Kathy showed them but could not offer further help, and a bouncer said that someone had been sent to the hospital that night after the fight, which may or may not have happened, and Aeryn possibly fled wearing nothing but a towel. Many of Aeryn's belongings, including his passport and credit cards, were found at the sauna.

A "bald-headed man" had possibly been sighted floating in the Danube River by a fisherman, but Gilleran said the story changed frequently, from someone hearing a splash to "maybe someone heard a scream around that time, but maybe not."

Aeryn had been harassed by the police in the past, Kathy said, suspecting that the jump into the Danube never happened, and that something happened at the sauna that was covered up by the tourists or the police. A letter dated December 10 said Aeryn's disappearance was "under investigation," but nothing has been heard since. The State Department's hands are tied, as it is unable to force another government to investigate further.

Kathy Gilleran told WTVH that she could relate to the mother of Natalee Holloway, the young woman who made headlines after going missing in Aruba in 2005.

"I sat here as a voyeur," she said, "for...over a year and a half watching it nightly, thinking to myself...'thank God that's not me'...and all of a sudden, it's like I'm [Beth Holloway], except I don't have the blond-haired, blue-eyed cheerleader. I've got the 34-year-old gay man that people are not going to feel that same compassion for."

The accompanying video report appears courtesy of WTVH-TV, as broadcast on August 1, 2008:


Originally published on Thursday August 14, 2008.

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