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18 classic true crime cases from around the world, including;
Murder, He Wrote: It was the perfect crime, until the killer decided to write a novel, using his real M.O. for his fictional murder.
Run, Bambi, Run: A young mother is found shot to death and the clues point to the unlikeliest of suspects – a gorgeous ex-cop and playboy bunny.
The Man Who Wrecked Trains: The killer had one of the strangest sexual fixations you’ll ever encounter – he got his kicks derailing trains.
To Love and to Perish: John Perry was tired of his young wife’s philandering. His solution? Kill her, cook her, feed her to the cat!
For the Love of Money: Greed can be murder and Frederick Seddon is quite possibly the greediest scoundrel you’ll ever have the displeasure of meeting.
Damned by Evil: A beautiful young girl gains an unwanted admirer, a snuff movie enthusiast with a taste for necrophilia.
Gods and Monsters: A quartet of criminals takes control of a tiny Mexican village, sparking an orgy of sex, murder and human sacrifice.
The Family: A family of hippies under the control of a murderous messiah, a series of crimes that shook America to its very roots.
Dinner for One: The killer was a sous-chef at one of the best restaurants in town. His victim was dinner.
A Better Life Through Murder: How far would you go to live the good life? As far as kidnapping? As far as murder?
Plus 10 more shocking, bizarre and horrific true murder cases.
Murder, He Wrote
On a frigid December day in 2000, three friends were fishing along a remote stretch of the Oder River in southwest Poland. One of the men was just about to cast, when he noticed something in the water, floating close to the shoreline. At first, he took it for a log, but then the stiff breeze stirred up an eddy and he saw what he thought was a swirl of hair. Closer inspection revealed that he was right. The object was the body of a semi-naked man, most decidedly dead. The fishermen went immediately to report the horrific find.
The police and emergency services were soon on the scene to remove the bloated body from the water. And it was immediately clear that the man had been the victim of foul play. The corpse was trussed in an unusual way, with a noose around the neck and the hands tied behind the back. Those two points were connected by a length of rope, drawn tight so that, if the victim tried to relax his legs, he’d end up throttling himself. The corpse also bore clear signs of torture, with livid bruises and several knife wounds. The autopsy would later reveal that he’d been deliberately starved for at least three days before being thrown into the water alive. His death was due to drowning.
It wasn’t long before the police were able to apply a name to the victim. Dariusz Janiszewski had been reported missing from the city of Wroclaw, some sixty miles away. The victim, six-feet tall and with long hair and blue eyes, was a good physical match for the 35-year-old businessman, who had last been seen on November 13. Janiszewski was identified by a birthmark on his chest.
That at least answered the question of who. What police couldn’t understand was why. A murder committed with such obvious violence seemed to suggest a deep sense of animosity towards the victim. But Dariusz Janiszewski appeared to be a man devoid of enemies. He was happily married, had no debts or obvious vices, and no criminal record. Those who knew him described him as a gentle person, who loved playing guitar and fronted his own rock band. “He wouldn’t harm a soul,” was the general consensus.
And yet somebody clearly held a different opinion of Janiszewski, somebody who had gone to great lengths to dispatch him to a painful and humiliating death. The police launched a massive operation to find that somebody, sending divers to the depths of the Oder in a hunt for clues and spending the following months tracking down every lead, no matter how tenuous. It all came to nothing. Within six months, investigators were forced to admit defeat and the investigation was shelved due to “an inability to find the perpetrator or perpetrators.”
Some two-and-a-half years later, on a fall afternoon in 2003, cold case detective Jacek Wroblewski flipped open the Janiszewski file which had just landed on his desk. The 38-year-old detective had a heavy case load but this one immediately caught his attention. He knew about the original investigation, of course. At the time, he’d been certain that the investigators working the case must have missed something. Now it was up to him to find it.
Flipping through the pathologist’s report, Wroblewski found himself in agreement as to the crime’s motive. This was no random act, no robbery or mugging. The level of violence suggested someone who harbored a deep-seated hatred. But who? Everyone in Janiszewski’s circle had been questioned and eliminated. Then Wroblewski’s eye fell on a statement given by the dead man’s mother, who had also worked as his bookkeeper. It told of a mysterious phone call on the day that Janiszewski went missing. The caller had been so insistent on speaking to Janiszewski (who was out of the office at the time), that Janiszewski’s mother had eventually given him her son’s cell phone number. The call had been traced during the original inquiry and found to have come from a phone booth just down the street from Janiszewski’s business premises.
The call sounded suspicious but Wroblewski needed more. A few days later, he thought that he may have found it. Janiszewski’s cell phone had gone missing at the time the man himself had disappeared and had never been traced. Wroblewski found himself wondering what had happened to it. A search by the department’s telecommunications expert provided the answer. The phone had been sold on an internet auction site called Allegro, just four days after Janiszewski disappeared. The seller was registered under the name ChrisB. Inquiries with the site administrator revealed that his real name was Krystian Bala.
Wroblewski was both elated and cautious at discovering this piece of information. Surely, he thought, someone who had committed such a well-planned murder would not have been stupid enough to sell the victim’s cell phone online. Bala, most likely, had bought the phone in a pawnshop. Perhaps, he’d even found it on the street.
Nonetheless, the detective began checking up on Krystian Bala. He learned that the man was a 31-year-old philosophy graduate, divorced and now living abroad. He’d once run a successful office cleaning business but after that failed, he’d turned his hand to writing a novel. In the interim, Bala’s marriage had fallen apart and his wife had left him, taking their young son with her.
None of this indicated to Wroblewski that Bala might have been involved in the crime. Yet, with no other potential suspects to explore, he continued to probe. His next move was to obtain a copy of Bala’s novel, a surrealist work called “Amok,” which had been an abject failure, selling less than 1,000 copies. Wroblewski began reading and was shocked by the novel’s pornographic and sadistic themes. The story is narrated by a bored Polish intellectual named Chris who, in pursuit of his next sexual thrill, commits a murder. And this was where it really got interesting. Although the victim in the book was a woman, the other elements of the murder were almost identical to that of Dariusz Janiszewski.
Wroblewski knew, of course, that the fictional murder did not amount to evidence of the real thing. So far, the only piece of evidence he had linking Bala to the victim was the cell phone. What he really needed was to bring Bala in for questioning, to see how he would stand up under interrogation. The problem was that Bala was still overseas, touring around and supporting himself by writing travel articles and teaching scuba diving and English. Then, in January of 2005, Wroblewski got the break he was waiting for when the police intercepted an e-mail from Bala saying that he was coming home to visit his family.
Bala arrived back in Poland in September 2005. At around 2:30 p.m. on September 5, he was approached by three officers as he left a drugstore in Chojnow and taken into custody. He was brought to police headquarters in Wroclaw, where Detective Wroblewski began interrogating him, at first revealing nothing of why Bala had been brought in. Then, as the suspect began to relax, Wroblewski asked him bluntly what he knew about the murder of Dariusz Janiszewski. Bala at first appeared flabbergasted but he quickly regained his composure. “I don’t know anyone named Dariusz Janiszewski,” he said. “I know nothing about the murder.”
Wroblewski then pressed him on the curious parallels between the murder described in his book and the actual killing. “It’s a work of fiction,” Bala insisted. “Any similarities are purely coincidental.” He was not quite so cocky when Wroblewski played his trump card – the cell phone. But again he quickly recovered. He did not remember how the phone had come into his possession, most likely he’d bought it at a pawnshop. “Give me a polygraph, if you think I’m lying,” he suggested. It was a challenge that Wroblewski was all too happy to take up. The results, however, were inconclusive.
Wroblewski was back to square one, and time was against him. According to Polish law, he was required to charge or release the suspect within 48 hours. That deadline was fast approaching and he still had nothing that would support a murder charge. All he could do was to book Bala for selling stolen property, a misdemeanor that was unlikely to carry any jail time. However, it did achieve one thing. Bala was ordered to relinquish his passport and to remain in Poland until his case could be heard.
Later, while flipping through Bala’s passport, Wroblewski picked up something curious. Back in 2002, a Polish television show had reported on the Janiszewski murder and had hosted an article about the case on its website. The article had received many hits, almost all of them from within Poland. The exceptions were three visits, one each from Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Bala had stamps from each of those countries in his passport. When Wroblewski compared the dates against the website hits, he had a match. Bala had, quite obviously, been following the case from afar. It was another piece to the circumstantial puzzle.
Bala, meanwhile, was becoming a cause célèbre, with intellectuals and celebrities rallying to his cause. The Polish Justice Ministry was deluged with letters from around the world, expressing outrage at Bala’s ‘mistreatment.’ The general theme of those letters was that Bala was being persecuted for his art, his right to freedom of expression impinged upon. All of this publicity, of course, was doing wonders for his profile. ‘Amok’ had been a sluggish seller at best. Now, it was a runaway bestseller.
With Bala stuck in Poland, Wroblewski and his team began to question the suspect’s friends and family. The objective was to establish a link between Bala and the murder victim and, in so doing, to uncover a motive. But if Wroblewski was expecting to find some dirt on his quarry, he would be sorely disappointed. The testimonials were overwhelmingly positive. The only vices that Krystian Bala appeared to possess were that he was extremely possessive of his ex-wife Stasia, and had reacted badly to their separation.
According to several witnesses, Bala would phone and text his wife constantly. On New Year’s Eve 2000, just weeks after Janiszewski’s body was found, Bala tracked Stasia to a bar and then got into a fight with a bartender who he accused of flirting with her. According to several witnesses, he threatened to kill the man, screaming that he had “already dealt with such a guy.” Might he have been referring to Janiszewski, Wroblewski wondered. Had Dariusz Janiszewski been romantically involved with Stasia? It was an avenue worth pursuing.
While Wroblewski was puzzling over the motive to the crime, other members of his team were working on the call that had been made to Janiszewski’s office on the day of his disappearance. That call, they knew, had come from a public telephone just down the block. Now they learned that it had been made using a prepaid card. Inquiries with the phone company turned up some interesting information. Other calls had been made from that same card in the days before and after the disappearance. One was to Krystian Bala’s father, others were to his girlfriend, several friends, and a business associate. That proved that Bala had been lying when he said that he didn’t know Janiszewski. He had been the man who had placed the call to his office on the day he went missing.
The picture was becoming clearer. And another piece fell into place when a friend of Stasia’s, named Malgorzata Drozdzal, told Wroblewski about an incident that had happened in the summer of 2000, shortly after Stasia separated from Bala. According to Drozdzal, she and Stasia had gone to the Crazy Horse nightclub in Wroclaw, where Stasia had spent much of the evening talking to a man with long hair and blue eyes. Drozdzal knew the man from around town. It was Dariusz Janiszewski.
This was an excellent piece of information, one that Wroblewski needed to verify immediately. The problem was that Stasia was refusing to talk to the police. Wroblewski then employed and unusual tactic. He asked Stasia to read sections of her ex-husband’s book, specifically those that pertained to a character named Sonya, who is the wife of the novel’s narrator. The character is clearly based on Stasia and she was so shocked at how she was depicted that she eventually decided to cooperate.
Stasia confirmed that she had met Janiszewski at Crazy Horse, that they had hit it off and that she had given him her phone number. Later, they went on a date and ended up together at a motel. But before anything happened, Janiszewski admitted to her that he was married, and she then left. “As a betrayed wife myself, I did not want to do that to another woman,” she explained.
Several weeks after that date with Janiszewski, Bala had shown up at Stasia’s apartment. He was in a drunken rage and accused her of having an affair with Janiszewski. When she denied the allegation, he forced his way in and started beating her. “I hired a private detective so I know everything,” he screamed. He then told her the name of the motel they had gone to. He even knew the room number. A short while later, Dariusz Janiszewski had gone missing. Listening to Stasia’s story, Wroblewski’s mind was drawn to the last line of ‘Amok’: “This was the one killed by blind jealousy,” Bala had written.
Krystian Bala’s trial began in Wroclaw on February 22, 2007. Polish court proceedings are heard before a presiding judge, with another judge and three citizens acting as the jury. The accused is represented by an attorney but is also allowed to ask direct questions of any witness. Bala, sitting inside a cage in the center of the courtroom, asked many questions, most of them semantic in nature. However, as the case went on and the evidence stacked up against him, he became increasingly desperate. Now, he wanted to know of every prosecution witness – Did you see me kidnap Dariusz Janiszewski? Did you see me kill him? Did you see me dump his body?
The answers to those questions were, of course, no. Yet the circumstantial evidence against Bala was strong. There was Bala’s obsessive jealousy towards his wife, his anger at her relationship with Dariusz Janiszewski, his call to Janiszewski on the day he went missing, his possession of the victim’s cell phone. Most of all, there was his novel, which all but contained a confession to the crime.
Since Bala continues to protest his innocence we can only speculate as to what actually happened to Dariusz Janiszewski. The police believe that Janiszewski was lured to some location by a phone call from Bala, who claimed to be a potential client of his business. Once there he was overpowered (Since Janiszewski is both bigger and heavier than Bala, the police think Bala may have had an accomplice or accomplices). Janiszewski was then held prisoner at some location for a number of weeks, during which he was beaten, slashed with a knife, starved and asphyxiated. Eventually, he was dumped in the Oder. His captors may have believed he was dead when they threw him in the river but he was still alive. He died from drowning.
Krystian Bala was found guilty of murder on September 5, 2007, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the maximum allowable under Polish law. At the time of his conviction, Bala was working on a second book. The murder victim in that novel bears a strong resemblance to his ex-wife’s current boyfriend.
Murder Most Vile Volume Nine features another 17 shocking true crime stories.