Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

All about The Red Spider - Lucian Staniak

Liberation Day

In July 1964 Polish citizens prepared to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Warsaw's liberation from Nazi occupation in World War II. A great parade was scheduled in Warsaw itself, on 22 July, with smaller demonstrations planned throughout the country. The first hint of trouble arrived on 4 July, in the form of a letter addressed to Marian Starzynski, the editor of Prezeglad Polityczny in Warsaw. Written with peculiar red ink in a spidery hand, the note read: "There is no happiness without tears, no life without death. Beware! I am going to make you cry."

Artist's re-creation (in English) of the spidery style of writing, used by the killer.
Artist's re-creation (in English) of the spidery style of writing, used by the killer.

Starzynski took the letter as a personal threat and sought police protection, but 22 July passed without untoward incident in Warsaw. Not so in Olsztyn, 120 miles to the north, where 17-year-old Danka Maciejowitz failed to return home from a parade sponsored by the local School of Choreography and Folklore. The next morning, a gardener working at Olsztyn's Park of Polish Heroes found the blond teenager's nude corpse concealed in shrubbery. She had been raped and disemboweled. On 24 July the Warsaw newspaper Kulisy received a red-letter note reading: "I picked a juicy flower in Olsztyn and I shall do it again somewhere else, for there is no holiday without a funeral."

Police analyzed the ink and found it to be artist's paint, thinned with turpentine. Both elements were common and untraceable, without a sample for comparison. The evidence recovered from Danka Maciejowitz's corpse, likewise, was useless without a suspect in hand. Detectives could do nothing more than wait and see if the killer made good on his threat of more murders to come.


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