The Krzysztof Olewnik murder: background

On the night of October 26-27 2001, Krzysztof Olewnik, the son of a wealthy businessman, was snatched from his home in Świerczynek, just north-west of Warsaw. Krzysztof, 25, is thought to have been held prisoner – maybe for weeks, but perhaps for two years – before being murdered. His body was not found until much later, when, on October 28 2006, the remains were uncovered in woodland. He was buried in Płock on November 4 2006.

The kidnap and murder of Krzysztof Olewnik, on the night of October 26-27 2001, took place after a party at his home. Krzysztof’s father, meat magnate Włodzimierz, had earlier been at the villa near the city of Płock, along with friends from the local police force, for a party. When the guests had left, Krzysztof was left alone in the house – and it was then that his assailants struck.

The Olewnik family received a ransom demand – suggesting that the kidnap was the work of a gang determined to separate Włodzimierz from the profits of his business. The family agreed to pay  300,000 euro, but it was two years before the kidnappers arranged a drop point to collect the cash, in Warsaw. But Krzysztof was not released. When his body was discovered, examinations showed that he prior to his death he had been tied up, beaten, and force-fed hallucinogenic drugs. The cause of his death – whenever that may have been – was  suffocation.

The police enquiry into the Olewnik case resulted in the arrest of 12 people, only one of whom, Artur Rechul, admitted any part in the kidnapping – and his evidence was later questioned as it was hazy and inconsistent. Of the others who were arrested, a court in Płock found Robert Pazik and Sławomir Kościuk guilty of murder and sentenced them to life imprisonment. Later that year, Kościuk was found dead in his prison cell. The following year, Pazik also died in jail. The official verdict in both cases was suicide.

A third man, Wojciech Franiewski, was arrested and charged with leading the kidnap gang. He was found dead – also from apparent suicide – in his cell in Olsztyn, while awaiting court proceedings in 2007.

The three suicides raised serious questions about the Olewnik case in the national press. Could they really be a coincidence? Certainly, the three deaths were enough to prompt the resignation of the Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ćwiąkalski, the day after Pazik’s body was discovered.

But the deaths of Kościuk, Pazik and Franiewski were not the only anomalies in the Olewnik case.

Amongst these were alleged police errors. The kidnappers made several calls to the Olewniks, but police did not trace the number. Two years after the kidnapping, a Daewoo Nubira carrying 16 volumes of files relating to the case was left unattended in Warsaw, and stolen. Włodzimierz Olewnik later received an anonymous note saying ‘the records have disappeared. It is just as well that police officers were not with them at the time, or they would have had to die’. Nor did police check fingerprints against their database, or record the serial numbers of the ransom bank notes. Critically, video tapes from surveillance cameras, later used to identify Franiewski, were not properly scrutinised at the time of the kidnapping.

A parliamentary commission was established to investigate the handling of the case, and further examinations of Krzysztof Olewnik’s villa took place in 2010. During this time, spots of blood were discovered, which contained previously unknown DNA. Whoever they came from, it was not Krzysztof or his father, and certainly not Kościuk, Pazik or Franiewski. It was said at the time of the first investigation into the kidnap and murder that a criminal gang had been lying in wait outside the house, waiting for the party to end before snatching Krzysztof. But the bloodstains collected from the new investigation suggest that someone else was involved too.

Just who – and why Krzysztof Olewnik was kidnapped and murdered – remains a mystery.

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