It was on the 10th December 2000 that some fisherman came across the body of a man on the banks of the river Oder near a weir at Wroclaw in south-western Poland. The police soon identified the corpse as being that of a local businessman named Dariusz Janiszewski, the owner of a small advertising agency, who had gone missing some four weeks earlier. It soon became apparent that Janiszewski had suffered a particularly gruesome death. He was found with his hands behind bound his back by a length of rope which had also been looped around his neck in a noose. He had a broken leg and his face was badly bruised which suggested that he had received a severe beating prior to his death, whilst there were signs that his limbs had been deliberately distended in order to inflict pain. Indeed all the indications were that Janiszewski had been starved and tortured prior to his death, before being stabbed and then thrown, stripped down to his shirt and underpants, into the river.
Unfortunately, apart from establishing that Janiszewski was a successful and popular professional with no apparent enemies, the resulting police investigation made little headway and was largely abandoned after six months. Some two years later in 2003 the Polish television equivalent of Crimewatch broadcast an item on the murder, however this does not seem to have generated much in the way of useful information, other than a series of anonymous emails from such locations as South Korea and Indonesia, all of which described the killing as "the perfect crime". Everything then went quiet until the year 2005 when Chief Inspector Jacek Wroblewski, who was in charge of what was now a cold case, received an anonymous telephone call which suggested that he should read the novel Amok which had been published earlier in 2003.
Amok was the first published novel of a "travel writer and intellectual" named Krystian Bala. The novel featured a narrator named Chris who decided to amuse himself by kidnapping a woman, torturing her, and then tying her up, stabbing her to death and throwing her remains into the river that flowed through Wroclaw. Chief Inspector Wroblewski was struck by the similarities between the murder described in the book and that of Dariusz Janiszewski and concluded that the "book contains intimate details of the killing that only the killer could have known".
As a direct result, on the 5th September 2005 Krystian Bala was arrested and held in custody for three days. The Polish police naturally questioned him in detail about Amok, but although he admitted that the novel had indeed been inspired by the killing of Dariusz Janiszewski, he claimed that he had taken most of his information from press reports and that any additional details contained therein were simply the product of his imagination. In the circumstances it was concluded that there was clearly not enough evidence to sustain any charge and he was released.
Krystian Bala was however distinctly unhappy at this turn of events, especially since the police then decided to retain his passport. He claimed that he had been "kidnapped and physically abused by the Polish Police", complained that he had been asked "extremely offensive and graphic questions" and that he was "both physically and verbally assaulted" by the police whilst in their custody. He subsequently decided to file formal charges against the police only to be re-arrested shortly afterwards on the 16th January 2006. His second arrest led to the establishment of the Krystian Bala Amok Author Defense Committee (KBAADC) which was at one time was calling on people to write in protest at his treatment to the Polish Minister of Justice and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.
Notwithstanding such protestations of innocence, according to one account, Bala then cracked and confessed to the killing in April 2006, only to immediately retract his statement. He then declined to answer any further questions.
Krystian Bala eventually stood trial in the summer of 2007, in a
case which naturally excited a great deal of interest from the Polish media, since it is not that often that a crime novellist is accused of having based their work on a crime that they actually commited, with the court's verdict eventually delivered on the 5th September 2007.
There was apparently insufficient evidence to convict Bala of actually carrying out the murder himself, indeed as Judge Lidia Hojenska
admitted, it remained unclear as to who had actually carried out the murder, or even whether it was the work of more than one individual. Nevertheless the judge concluded that the "evidence gathered gives sufficient basis to say that Krystian Bala committed the crime of leading the killing of Dariusz Janiszewski, he was the initiator of the murder; his role was leading and planning it". She duly sentenced Krystian Bala to serve twenty-five years in prison.
The evidence that provided this "sufficient basis" for conviction appears to have been as follows. Firstly the police had identified an account on the Internet auction site Allegro set up in the name of Krystian Bala which had been used to sell the victims's mobile phone four days after his disappearance. Secondly they had similarly identified a phone card that had been used to make calls to Janiszewski's office and then to his mobile phone on the very the morning that he disappeared; the same card had also been used to make calls to both Bala's girlfriend and his parents. (And therefore by implication must have been Bala's phone card.) They also established that Krystian Bala had been present in South Korea, Indonesia and Japan at the time that various emails had been sent from those countries to Poland referring to the murder as "the perfect crime".
In support of this evidence prosecutors had also commissioned a psychological assessment of Krystian Bala which concluded that he had "sadistic tendencies", and that there were "certain similar characteristics" between the character of the narrator and murder who featured in Amok and the author of the work. They also had evidence to show that Bala often used the name 'Chris' when abroad and as an online alias. As far as motive was concerned Judge Lidia Hojenska appeared convinced by the prosecution's argument that Bala "was pathologically jealous of his wife" and that he simply would not permit his estranged wife to have any kind of relationship with another man. Bala apparently believed that Janiszewski had recently had an affair with his wife.
Most of the English language newspaper reports on the case incorrectly claim that Bala was convicted of murder, whereas he was found in fact guilty of "leading and planning" the killing, and therefore appears to have been convicted of the Polish equivalent of conspiracy to murder. The distinction is important as there was no actual evidence that identified Bala as the murderer. Rather it was the case that there was circumstantial evidence that strongly suggested that Bala must have been involved in the murder, and therefore 'must' have been guilty of complicity in the crime.
Krystian Bala has announced his intention to appeal.
- Polish Author Tortured by Police and Imprisoned
- Peter Pophamin Rome, Guilty of murder, the author who based novel on his crime, 06 September 2007
- Adam Easton, Polish author jailed for murder, 5 September 2007
- Roger Boyes, Crime author charged with murder after the police read his perfect plot, August 9, 2007 The Times
- Allan Hall, Crime writer on trial for murder - and his own whodunit is Exhibit A
- Ryan Lucas, Polish Author Convicted of Murder, September 5, 2007 1:16 Associated Press