When 23-year-old Polish student Katarzyna Zowada didn’t show up for her doctor’s appointment on November 12th, 1998, she was reported as missing. On January 6, 1999, a sailor who was aboard a tugboat noticed something strange floating on the river. It was a long, foul-smelling thing that was pale and spotted human skin.
DNA tests indicated it belonged to Katarzyna Zowada. It has been suggested that Katarzyna was skinned alive! After 19 years of fruitless investigation, in October 2017, police arrested Robert J. on suspicion of being a killer who tortured and skinned Katarzyna before using her skin to make a suit. To date, it’s considered one of the most disturbing murders in Polish history.
Katarzyna Zowada was a pretty blonde student at Jagiellonian University, located in nearby Kraków, Poland during the late 1990s. According to her friends, Zowada was a nice, although “sad and withdrawn” person. She had suffered from depression since the death of her father in 1996.
The Disappearance And Discovery Of Katarzyna Zowada’s Remains:
On 12 November 1998, 23-year-old Katarzyna was absent to meet her mother at the Psychiatric Clinic in Nowa Huta, where she had been treated for her depression. She never made it to the appointment. Later that day, Katarzyna’s mother attempted to file a missing person’s report at the local police station but was advised to wait. However, she didn’t come back, she went missing without any trace.
On January 6, 1999, a sailor who was aboard a tugboat noticed something strange floating on the river. It was a long, foul-smelling thing that was pale and spotted. He got a closer look, and then saw a human ear attached to it.
After examination, it was discovered to be human skin. DNA tests indicated it belonged to Katarzyna Zowada. Unlike every other “discovered body” story you’ll hear, the poor sailor who discovered Katarzyna didn’t discover her body. Rather, he just found her skin. In other words, Katarzyna Zowada was skinned alive!
We can’t even imagine how horrible and painful moments Katarzyna went through just before her death. On 14 January, Katarzyna’s right leg and pieces of her clothing were also recovered from the river. But the rest of her remains, being her head and limbs, were never recovered.
When authorities took a look at the poor girl’s remains, they had discovered something even more disturbing. They realized her skin was prepared in a way to be worn as a suit, much like what Leatherface did in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The American serial killer and body-snatcher, Ed Gein also did this disgusting job but he used to do this thing with stolen corpses. But the case of Katarzyna Zowada was totally different. To date, it’s considered one of the most disturbing murders in Polish history. Somehow, the murder’s tale never reached America’s newspapers, despite how insanely gory it was.
Investigation Of Katarzyna Zowada’s Murder Case:
Investigators and experts from other countries were called to assist in solving the crime, including the FBI. In May 1999, the Forensic Medicine Unit in Kraków received a corpse of a man with a severed and scalped head.
The killer, Vladimir W., turned out to be the son of the victim, originally from the Caucasus. Prior to the arrest, he was seen in a mask made of skin pulled from the head of his own father.
Initially, investigators suspected that Vladimir committed Katarzyna’s murder, however, no evidence was found to support it. He was later charged with his father’s murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison. After a few years, he was transferred to a prison in Russia at his own request.
A year later, the investigation was formally dropped because the perpetrator had not been discovered, but police officers involved in the case continued investigating credible leads.
Later, investigators concluded that the attacker had used a sharp tool to wound his victim on her neck, armpit and groin, to inflict pain. In 2014, an FBI representative for Europe created a psychological profile of the suspect, pointing to his sadistic tendencies.
In 2016, it was confirmed that Katarzyna was tortured before her death and that the perpetrator was probably trained in martial arts, specifically one particular, undisclosed variation.
The Arrest Of The Suspect And Trial:
Police made the first arrest in October 2017, 19 years later, after discovering new evidence. A 52-year-old man named Whingeing Robert J. was arrested from Cracow’s Kazimierz district on suspicion of being a killer who tortured and skinned Katarzyna before using her skin to make a suit.
Investigators searched his apartment and found blood in the bathroom. As a result, the bath and frame were secured for further testing. He was already on the radar of police investigation in 1999 but had not been arrested.
Robert J. fit the psychological profile as he was trained in martial arts, knew the victim, visited the victim’s grave and had a history of harassing women. He had previously worked in a dissecting lab, where he dealt with human corpses.
He also worked at the Cracow Institute of Zoology, where he could observe the process of preparing animal skins. His employment was terminated the day after he killed all of the institute’s rabbits during his shift. Robert J. couldn’t explain his actions.
The police detained him after a letter from the suspect’s friend. The contents of the letter are a closely guarded secret of the investigation. Robert J. was charged with aggravated murder with particular cruelty. He maintains that he did not know Katarzyna Zowada.
The Court of Appeal agreed to extend his detention until 6 September 2018 while investigators gathered evidence. In December Robert J. complained of harassment from the prison guards. The claims were investigated and found to be groundless.
Robert J. is still awaiting trial and is back in the news after complaining that prison guards had harassed and insulted him in a move that has infuriated officers and prosecutors.
After being forced to investigate the claims and finding them groundless, they have now revealed they are going to add ‘lying to police’ by ‘falsely accusing the prison guards’ to the charges he faces. As of September 2019, Robert J. remains in custody while investigators continue to gather evidence.