Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

All about The Red Spider - Lucian Staniak

Fires of Lust

On 16 January 1965 the newspaper Zycie Warsawy published a photograph of 16-year-old Aniuta Kaliniak, selected to lead a student parade through Warsaw the next day. Kaliniak lived in Praga, an eastern suburb of the capital. She walked to the celebration on 17 January, across a bridge spanning the Vistula River, but she was tired afterward and thumbed a ride back with a local truck driver. He dropped her off within two blocks of home, but Kaliniak never made it back to her house.

Family and friends were scouring Praga for Aniuta when another of the now-familiar red letters arrived, directing searchers to her final resting place. They found her body in the basement of a leather factory, directly opposite her home. The killer had apparently lain in wait for Kaliniak, ambushing her within sight of her house and strangling her with a wire garrote. When she was dead, he had removed a sidewalk grate and thus gained access to the factory basement, leaving Kaliniak with a six-inch metal spike protruding from her genitals.

On 1 November 1965All Saint's Daythe killer struck again, this time in Pozna, 175 miles west of Warsaw. Janka Popielski, a young blond hotel receptionist, visited Pozna's freight terminal that afternoon, seeking a free ride to visit her boyfriend in a nearby village. Instead, she found a madman who subdued her with chloroform, then dragged her behind a pile of packing crates, where he stripped her from the waist down, raped her, and stabbed her to death with a screwdriver. After mutilating her lower body, the killer stuffed Popielski's corpse into one of the crates, where it was found an hour later. Mutilations were so vicious that police withheld all details from the media.

After Popielski was found dead, police laid siege to any trains and buses leaving Pozna, looking for a man with bloody clothes. They found no suspects and were once again frustrated. On 2 November a Pozna newspaper, Courier Zachodni, received a red-ink letter quoting Stefan Zeromsky's 1928 novel Popioli: "Only tears of sorrow can wash out the stain of shame; only pangs of suffering can blot out the fires of lust."

The killer was not weeping, though, and manhunters suspected that his bloodlust was not satisfied.


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