Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

All about The Red Spider - Lucian Staniak

Spider Hunt

Poland marked a double holiday on 1 May 1966, celebrated both as Labor Day and as the Communist Party's primary day of rejoicing. That evening, 17-year-old Marysia Galazka went out looking for her cat in Zoliborz, a northern suburb of Warsaw, and never returned to the house. Marysia's father, in turn, soon went looking for his tardy daughter and found her in a tool shed behind the house, dead and grossly mutilated, entrails draped across her thighs. An autopsy determined that she had been raped before the ripper plied his blade.

Major Ciznek of the Warsaw Homicide Squad was placed in charge of the Red Spider case, operating from certain basic assumptions. First, he deemed it unlikely that a serial killer would confine his crimes entirely to high-profile holidays. A nationwide search for similar crimes turned up 14 more murders that seemed to fit the Red Spider's modus operandi, though none were accompanied by the trademark letters. Dating from April 1964, five of the murders had occurred around Pozna, two at Bydgoszcz, and one each at Bialystok, Kielce, ód, Lomza, Lublin and Radom. Plotting the murders on a map, Ciznek noted that most of the crime scenes lay south and west of Warsaw, in towns connected by direct rail lines to Katowice and Kraków. So far, neither of those cities had suffered attacks, supporting Ciznek's theory that the killer would not strike too close to home.

The area near Krakow and Katowice
The area near Krakow and Katowice

Still, that theory hardly solved the case. Katowice is larger than Warsaw, with well over 3 million inhabitants, while Kraków boasts more than 800,000. Guessing the killer's base of operation accomplished nothing, unless police found a clue that would lead them to his door.


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