06 September 2007

Writer convicted of murder he described in novel

In "Amok", Krystian Bala, 33, described in detail the brutal murder of a Polish businessman. He wrote of a dead body fished out of a river bearing the harrowing marks of torture - limbs distended, hands bound and tied to a noose around the neck.

Well now the Polish author, travel writer and intellectual whose best-selling novel described a gruesome and grisly murder has been jailed for 25 years for committing the crime he had so vividly portrayed.

The victim - Dariusz J - a successful, popular professional and owner of a small advertising agency- 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 Dariusz out of the River Oder, the body 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, typically, the murderer/author could not resist gloating over his cleverness.

During the investigation, anonymous e-mails 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 5 years after the killing, the detective in charge of the investigation, Chief Inspector Jacek, received an anonymous call suggesting he take a look at a novel entitled Amok, written by Krystian Bala and published 2 years earlier.

The Inspector read the book several times.

The similarities with the murder of Dariusz J 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.

The Polish Bret Easton Ellis?

Their victim is first tortured, then has her hands and wrists bound with a length of rope that is then passed round her neck.

Several details of the murder that were never publicised were duplicated in the novel.

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's book, Amok

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. He vigorously denied having inside knowledge of the killing. Saying he was simply an avid reader of the press reports and that he has been framed to cover up for what he described as a "bungled" police investigation.

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."

The Inspector 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 e-mails describing the murder as "the perfect crime" arrived in Poland .

Investigators found the victim's cell phone had been sold on the internet four days after his disappearance, from an account in Bala's name.

Krystian Bala

The author had no answer to that.

Bala acknowledged he used the name Chris when outside Poland - the name of the murderer in the book, Amok.

The dead man was revealed to be the ex-lover of a woman who happened to be married to Bala.

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."

Speaking in court, his ex-wife described the author as "controlling", which was the reason she had divorced him.

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