A Polish author, travel writer and intellectual whose best-selling novel described a grisly murder has been jailed for 25 years for committing the crime he had so vividly portrayed.
The killing of Dariusz Janiszewski in 2000 was notably gruesome. The victim – a successful, popular professional – was humiliated, starved and tortured, before having his hands bound with a rope that was looped around his neck in a noose.
When fishermen scooped the body out of the river Oder, it was stripped to shirt and underpants and the limbs had been distended and bore marks of torture. The police had no leads and after six months the search for a culprit was abandoned.
But the murderer could not resist gloating over his cleverness. During the investigation, anonymous emails were sent from South Korea and Indonesia to Polish television's equivalent of Crimewatch, describing the killing as "the perfect crime".
Those were just straws in the wind. But fully five years after the killing, the detective in charge of the investigation, Chief Inspector Jacek Wroblewski, received an anonymous call suggesting he take a look at a novel entitled Amok, written by Krystian Bala and published two years earlier. Ch Insp Wroblewski read the book several times. The similarities with the murder of Dariusz Janiszewski were too strong to be ignored.
In the book, a group of bored intellectuals finds distraction from the monotony of their lives in sex, drugs, alcohol – and murder. Their victim is first tortured, then has her hands and wrists bound with a length of rope that is then passed round her neck. Details of the Janiszewski murder that were never publicised were duplicated in the novel.
The victim's body was dragged from a river in Wroclaw. The Oder, where Mr Janiszewski was found, flows through the city.
After Bala's arrest in 2005, friends and supporters launched appeals on the Web, claiming he had been "kidnapped and physically abused" by police and falsely accused of murder. Amok, they said, was "strong" in language and content, and "there are several metaphors that might be considered against the Catholic Church and Polish tradition."
Bala told police his inspiration for the story came from press reports, while the bits not mentioned in the media, which happened to be the most gruesome, came straight from his imagination. After three days, the author was set free. In outrage, Bala told his supporters that the detectives "seemed to know my book by heart. The police were treating the book as if it was a literal autobiography rather than a piece of fiction."
Ch Insp Wroblewski and his team of investigators were unconvinced. Digging further they found new links between the crime and the author. Bala, an experienced diver, had been on diving trips to South Korea, Indonesia and Japan when the mystery emails describing the murder as "the perfect crime" arrived in Poland . Investigators found the victim's mobile phone had been sold on the internet four days after his disappearance, from an account in Bala's name. The author had no answer to that. Bala acknowledged he used the name Chris when outside Poland – the name of the murderer in Amok.
Judge Lidia Hojenska said Bala was driven to kill Mr Janiszewski because he believed he had had an affair with the novelist's estranged wife. There was insufficient evidence to prove that Bala carried out the murder himself, she said, but sufficient to prove he "committed the crime of leading the killing ... He was the initiator of the murder; his role was leading and planning it."