Zdzisław Marchwicki (October 18, 1927 – April 26, 1977),[1] known as The Zagłębie Vampire (Polish: Wampir z Zagłębia), was an alleged Polish serial killer who, together with several accomplices, was convicted of killing 14 women and attacking 7 others around the country from 1964 to 1970. For this, Marchwicki was executed in 1977, but since then his guilt has been questioned.[2]

Zdzisław Marchwicki
Born(1927-10-18)October 18, 1927
DiedApril 26, 1977(1977-04-26) (aged 49)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
Other names"The Zagłębie Vampire"
Conviction(s)Murder
Criminal penaltyDeath
Details
Victims14
Span of crimes
1964–1970
CountryPoland
Date apprehended
1972

Early life

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Zdzisław Marchwicki was born on October 18, 1927, in a dysfunctional family from Dąbrowa Górnicza.[3] His father Józef had married five times and had four children from his marriages. Later on, all of his siblings would aid Zdzisław in his crimes. Due to his lack of interest in studying and average intelligence, Marchwicki failed to graduate school.

Murders

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From 1964, a series of atrocious crimes took place on the territories of the Dąbrowa Basin and Upper Silesia, continuing (with short interruptions) until 1970. In total, 19 women were attacked, 14 of which were fatal.[4] The Vampire's modus operandi consisted of stalking the chosen victim, running up and hitting them in the back of the head with a blunt object, then beating the victim until she died. In some cases, he had sexually abused the corpses, but never raped them, as no trace of his sperm was found in their bodies. Some of the women were left with exposed genitalia, with one having her pubic mound cut.[2]

On November 7, 1964, the body of 15-year-old Anna Mycek was discovered in Katowice's Dąbrówka Mała district.[3] The autopsy established that she had been killed by blunt force trauma to the head, inflicted with a heavy object, and the offender had hit her several times post-mortem. He then dragged the body about ten meters away, unbuttoned her coat, lifted her skirts and exposed her genitals. Despite an investigation by the MoD, nobody was arrested. In the following months, several attacks on women were recorded: on January 20, 1965, Ewa Pakan was found dead in Czeladź, followed by the murder of Lidia Nowacka in Będzin on March 17 and the non-fatal attack on Irena Szymańska in the same city on May 14. Due to their similarities, the crimes were connected as serial in nature, and since the killer attacked in the vicinity of the Dąbrowa Basin, which is also known as the Zagłębie Dąbrowskie, he was nicknamed "The Zagłębie Vampire".[5]

However, since Polish operatives had not yet encountered such a vicious criminal, a special summit was held in the second half of July 1965 by the provincial administration of the Ministry of Defence, which combined all the known cases into one investigation.[2] Despite the fact that the authorities remained silent about the murders, rumors about the Vampire quickly spread, sending the local populace and that of nearby Silesia into fear. Female residents from Sosnowiec, Będzin, Dąbrowa Górnicza, Czeladź, Siemianowice Śląskie and even Katowice were afraid to go outside in the evening, prompting their husbands to escort them during the night. Another rumor claimed that the Vampire intended to kill a thousand women to commemorate Poland's millennium. Policewomen were dispatched as 'decoys' in an attempt to apprehend the killer, without any success.

In 1965, a total of 11 attacks were attributed to the Zagłębie Vampire, which further hampered investigators. On November 12, the body of Jolanta Gierek, the niece of the First Secretary of the Polish's People Republic, Edward Gierek, was fished out of the Przemsza river in Będzin. While Gierek had little interaction with his niece, Jolanta's murder resulted in the apprehension and punishment of the criminal to become top-priority, and the Vampire was labeled public enemy number one.[2]

Following this killing, the murder of a previous victim in July, Maria Gomółka, was examined under a different lens: it was suggested that she had been killed in anti-communist action, as her surname was similar to that of politician Władysław Gomułka, and the fact that she had been killed on July 22 - the date for which the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic was signed and the Polish Committee of National Liberation was established. Another victim, Jadwiga Sąsiek, had two high-ranking militia operatives in her family, and her brother was on duty at the police station in Będzin.[5]

In 1968, the Polish authorities finally appealed to citizens of the voivodeship to provide any information that could lead to the arrest of the Vampire, offering a reward of one million zlotys. As a result, numerous false denunciations were sent to police, both against neighbors and family members, which preoccupied the police with letters and phone calls. Each of these denunciations was carefully examined, and some even helped solve unrelated crimes.[2]

At a meeting with the head of the Homicide Division of the Ministry of Defence, Col. Jerzy Muniak and Brigadier General Jerzy Gruba proposed a new, hitherto unused method of investigation, which the task force accepted.[3] This consisted of compiling 483 known supposed characteristic of the Vampire, both physical and mental, which were then compared with those of the thousands of male residents of the Dąbrowa Basin. Following this, 267 potential suspects remained, and in fourth place was Zdzisław Marchwicki. For various reasons, the other top three suspects were later eliminated, and more attention was paid to Marchwicki, but authorities could not yet arrest him, as there was no direct evidence in his guilt. On March 4, 1970, renowned philologist and the first teacher of Silesian literature at the Silesian University in Katowice, 46-year-old Jadwiga Kucianka, was brutally murdered. This shocking crime was quickly attributed to the Vampire, but it was also established that in this case, he had not acted alone.[2] A mentally ill craftsman from Sosnoweic, Piotr Olszowy, confessed to being the Vampire when he was interrogated for the crime, but was released due to lack of evidence. Not long after, on the night of March 14–15, he killed his family and later committed suicide by setting the house on fire while still inside.[5] As his corpse had been charred, no fingerprints could be taken and compared to those left behind by the Vampire on the crime scenes. Just three days prior, the militia had received an anonymous letter stating: "This was the last murder, there will be no more and you will never catch me".[2]

Arrest, trial and execution

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In November 1971, the police received a letter from Maria Marchwicki, in which she accused her husband Zdzisław of abusing her and their children, and also claimed that he was the Vampire.[2] Because of this, on January 6, 1972, Marchwicki was arrested in Dąbrowa Górnicza. Three days after his arrest, newspapers published information about the arrest of a suspect in the murders, which was carried out by Brig. Gen. Gruba himself.[3] There are several versions as to what Marchwicki may have said during his arrest: according to technician Wiesław Tomaszek, he said "Have you arrived in two Volgas for the sake of one person? How many of you are here - no more, no less, as the Vampire himself has been grabbed"; in the court files, he is recorded as saying "Well, now, finally, the Vampire has been caught."[2] Almost immediately after his arrest, the task force was split in two groups: those who believed that Marchwicki was guilty (chief among them being Gruba) and those who strongly doubted it (among these were Colonels Zygmunt Kalisz and Stefan Tokarz, Lt. Zbigniew Gątarz and prosecutor Leszek Polański). Marchwicki himself denied responsibility, but behaved oddly at interrogations, talking about supposedly undisclosed murders, and when asked to sign the protocol, he wrote at the bottom that "this is all a lie". At one point, he took the protocol and attempted to swallow it.[2]

Meanwhile, the investigators also arrested his accomplices in the murder of Kucianka: they turned out to be his brothers, Henryk and Jan. Henryk was arrested on May 21, 1972, followed by Jan three days later.[2] The latter, an employee for the administration at the Faculty of Law at the Silesian University, had come into conflict with Kucianka, who had accused him of accepting bribes from applicants and claimed that his sexual orientation sullied the university's reputation. At the same time, while he was a secret informant for the security service, Jan feared that Kucianka would report him to the rector Kazimierz Popelek, so he persuaded Zdzisław to kill her with his help. On July 4, the investigators also arrested the Marchwickis' sister, Halina Flak, and on November 11, Jan's lover, Józef Klimczak (who later testified that Jan had indeed participated in the murder) was also arrested. The final arrest occurred on December 29, when Flak's son, Zdzisław, was also detained.[5]

The investigation into the case lasted over two years, with the case file consisting of 166 volumes. The trial began on September 18, 1974, at the venue Klub Fabryczny Zakłady Zynkowe "Silesia" (Factory Club of Zakłady Zynkowe) in Katowice; due to the notoriety of the proceedings, people were only allowed to enter by purchasing a special ticket.[6] The hearing was chaired by Justice Władysław Ochman and prosecuted by Józef Gurgul and Zenon Kopiński; Marchwicki's attorneys were well-known lawyers Bolesław Andrysiak and Mieczysław Frelich. The main defendant, Zdzisław Marchwicki, was charged with 23 crimes, the most serious of which were the 14 murders and 7 attempted murders. The charges seemed sensible to the court, as he had a history of beating his family members, disrespecting police officers, embezzlement of public property and other offenses. His brother, Jan, was charged with 8 crimes, most notable of which was inciting and participating in the murder of Jadwiga Kucianka. Henryk Marchwicki and Józef Klimczak were accused in complicity in Kucianka's murder (Henryk was additionally charged with stealing her clock); Halina Flak was charged with selling stolen property, and her son Zdzisław was accused of not reporting any of the crimes to the authorities.

On July 28, 1975, the court announced the verdicts for all six defendants: Zdzisław and Jan Marchwicki were given the death penalty; Henryk - 25 years; Klimczak - 12 years; Halina and Zdzisław Flak - 4 years.[5]

At 21:00 on April 26, 1977, Zdzisław Marchwicki was hanged in a specially-built police garage in Katowice; his brother Jan was executed in another garage an hour later.[1] Both were buried in graves marked only with numbers in a special cemetery designated for criminals. Zdzisław's grave, at number 39, was next to that of another serial killer, Bogdan Arnold. In 1997, after the abolition of the death penalty in the country, the cemetery was destroyed by decree of the President, Aleksander Kwaśniewski.[2]

Aftermath for accomplices

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  • Henryk Marchwicki was remanded to a prison in Rzeszów to serve his 25-year sentence. While he was imprisoned, the militia harassed his family, demanding that his wife divorce him and change her name, or else they would imprison her and put the children in an orphanage. In 1985, they were falsely informed that Henryk had died in prison, but in 1990, the wife found from the media that her husband was still alive. Even when he was still in prison, Henryk began a campaign to clear his and his brothers' names, which he continued following his release in November 1992.[2] In 1998, he died under suspicious circumstances, with the official cause of death being given as him falling down the stairs and breaking his spine, before going back up, going to bed and succumbing to his injuries while in a drunken stupor. The investigation into his death was later discontinued.[2]
  • Halina and Zdzisław Flak were both released from prison; the former was granted amnesty, while the latter had his sentence reduced to 32 months and released.
  • Józef Klimczak was released in February 1982 due to prison overcrowding, and now lives in a large city in northern Poland (some sources erroneously claimed that he had emigrated to Sweden). He is married and has a child. Police files indicate that the militia blackmailed him into cooperating with the investigation under the pseudonym "Jastrząb", but he gave only one interview and then categorically refused to cooperate further.[2]

Doubts of guilt

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There is much confusion about the Zagłębie Vampire's true identity. The 2001–2002 series Paragraf 148 – Kara śmierci had an episode on the case, directed by Maciej Żurawski, which presented Marchwicki as innocent. The episode presents testimony from contemporary militia officers and lawyers, and claims that the whole case was a show trial. In similar vein, director Maciej Pieprzyca produced the 1998 documentary Jestem mordercą..., in which he proclaimed that Marchwicki was innocent.[2][7]

In the nineties, information appeared which undermined the fairness of the court. Attention was drawn to the fact that Zdzisław Marchwicki had never pleaded guilty, and that he was identified only by people who thought he corresponded to the perpetrator's suspected profile. The authorities were eager to convict somebody, and since Piotr Olszowy, the only alternative suspect, had committed suicide by self-immolation, it would bring shame on the justice system to not bring the purported killer to trial. The case remains controversial to this day.[2]

Victims

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Number Identity Date Place
1 Anna Mycek November 7, 1964 Katowice
2 Ewa Pakan January 20, 1965 Czeladź
3 Lidia Nowacka March 17, 1965 Będzin
4 Irena Szymańska May 14, 1965 Będzin
5 Jadwiga Zygmunt July 22, 1965 Sosnowiec
6 Eleonora Gąsiorowska July 26, 1965 Będzin
7 Zofia Wiśniowska August 4, 1965 Będzin
8 Maria Błaszczyk August 15, 1965 Czeladź
9 Genowefa Łebek August 25, 1965 Będzin
10 Teresa Tosza October 25, 1965 Będzin
11 Alicja Dubiel October 28, 1965 Sławków
12 Irena Szrek December 12, 1965 Czeladź
13 Stanisława Samul February 19, 1966 Gródków
14 Genowefa Bijak May 11, 1966 Będzin
15 Maria Gomółka June 15, 1966 Sosnowiec
16 Julianna Kozierska June 15, 1966 Będzin
17 Jolanta Gierek October 11, 1966 Będzin
18 Zofia Kawka June 15, 1967 Będzin
19 Zofia Garbacz October 3, 1967 Wojkowice
20 Jadwiga Sąsiek October 3, 1968 Sosnowiec
21 Jadwiga Kucianka March 4, 1970 Siemianowice Śląskie

See also

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In the media and culture

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  • The 1977 fictionalized novel Na tropach zabójcy, written by Tadeusz Wielgolawski, was inspired by the case
  • The 1981 crime film "'Anna' and the Vampire", directed by Janusz Kidawa, was based on the case
  • In the 1992 crime thriller Pigs, the main character, played by Cezary Pazura, says that it was his father who captured Marchwicki
  • In 2004, Teatr Telewizji premiered a play entitled "Wampir", which incorporated private details about the investigation into the Vampire. The play's author, Wojciech Tomczyk, has expressed his belief that Marchwicki was innocent.
  • In 2006, a 3-part series titled Kryminalni: Misja śląska examined the case
  • The 2009 novel Róże cmentarne, by Marek Krajewski and Mariusz Czubaj, has references to Zdzisław Marchwicki
  • In the 2013 film The Closed Circuit, directed by Ryszard Bugajski, prosecutor Andrzej Kostrzewa (played by Janusz Gajos) mentions that he worked on the Marchwikci trial in his youth
  • Similar to his 1988 documentary, Maciej Pieprzyca released a film in 2016, titled I'm a Killer
  • 2016, (new edition 2021) "Wampir z Zagłębia", a documentary by Przemysław Semczuk
  • The 2019 crime novel Gwiazdy Oriona is partly inspired by the Marchwicki case

References

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  1. ^ a b "Wampir z Zagłębia. Historia zbrodni". Rzeczpospolita. 2019-04-26. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Malwina Użarowska (April 26, 2019). "Wampir z Zagłębia. Historia zbrodni" [The Zagłębie Vampire. History of the case.] (in Polish). Rzeczpospolita.
  3. ^ a b c d Grażyna Kuźnik (August 18, 2021). "Zdzisław Marchwicki - "wampir z Zagłębia" był górnikiem w kopalni Zawadzki w Dąbrowie Górniczej" [Zdzisław Marchwicki - 'The Zagłębie Vampire' was a miner at the Zawadzki mine in Dąbrowa Górnicza] (in Polish). Naszemiasto. Archived from the original on August 25, 2021.
  4. ^ Józef Krzyk (April 19, 2013). "Polowanie na wampira z Zagłębia" [Hunting The Zagłębie Vampire] (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. Archived from the original on April 27, 2024.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Tajemnica Wampira z Zagłębia" [The Mystery of The Zagłębie Vampire] (in Polish). Facet. September 23, 2009. Archived from the original on August 26, 2021.
  6. ^ Przemysław Semczuk (January 17, 2016). "Wampir, 14 ofiar i MO" [Vampire, 14 victims and MO] (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. Archived from the original on August 26, 2021.
  7. ^ ""Wampir z Zagłębia" powraca w nowym filmie twórcy "Chce się żyć" [PIERWSZE ZDJĘCIA]" ['The Zagłębie Vampire' returns in a new film by the creator of 'Life Feels Good'] (in Polish). Dziennik Rozrywka. November 23, 2015. Archived from the original on October 27, 2016.
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