Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

All about The Red Spider - Lucian Staniak

The Artist

Soldiers discover the body of Janina Kozielska on the train.
Soldiers discover the body of Janina Kozielska on the train.

On Christmas Eve 1966 three soldiers boarded a train bound from Kraków to Warsaw. Preferring not to ride third-class, they opened a reserved compartment and were shocked to find a woman's mutilated body on the floor. They summoned a conductor, who in turn alerted the engineer. Warsaw police took the radio call, ordering the train to proceed without further stops to the capital. Each passenger was scrutinized upon departure, but again detectives saw no bloody hands or clothes. Inside the train's mail car, apparently dropped through the slot before it left Kraków, police found another message from the Red Spider: "I have done it again."

The victim was identified as 17-year-old Janina Kozielska, of Kraków. Her leather miniskirt was shredded by the killer's knife, as were her lower abdomen and thighs. Again, unlike most lust killers, the Red Spider had carefully avoided contact with his victim's face and breasts. Major Ciznek's detectives learned that the compartment had been booked by telephone, the male caller identifying himself as Stanislav Kosielski. His "wife" had picked up the tickets and paid for them in cash, 1,422 zlotych (about $85). A conductor showed her to the compartment, where she said her husband would arrive shortly. The same conductor checked the "husband's" ticket but could not recall his face.

Police now realized that Janina Kozielska had known her killer well enough to travel with him, posing as his wife, although she was not married. They further surmised that she had been killed and mutilated within ten minutes of arrival on the train, before it pulled out of Kraków, while her slayer left on foot, dropping his letter in the mail slot as he fled.

A background check revealed that Kozielska's 14-year old sister, Aniela, had been slaughtered in Warsaw two years earlier. It was too much for coincidence. Major Ciznek was convinced that the sisters' murders would solve the case. He interviewed their parents, and while the Kozielskas could suggest no suspects, they reported that both girls had worked as artist's models, at the Kraków School of Plastic Arts and the Art Lovers Club.

Beginning with the club, Ciznek determined that it had 118 members, most of them respected professional men, including doctors and dentists, journalists and public officials. Still operating on the theory that his quarry would not kill at home, Ciznek scanned the membership list for residents of Katowice. He found one: Lucian Staniak, a 26-year-old translator employed with Poland's government printing house. Staniak was said to travel frequently and widely as part of his job, using an ulgowy billeta special ticket good for unlimited railroad travel anywhere in Poland.

Ciznek asked the art club's manager to open Staniak's locker. Inside, he found a variety of knives used for daubing paint on canvas, plus several of Staniak's recent works. The artist favored red paint for the most part, and a painting he titled "The Circle of Life" made Ciznek confident that he'd found the Red Spider. It portrayed a cow eating a flower, the cow devoured by a wolf, the wolf shot by a hunter, the hunter run down by a female motorist, and the woman lying in a field with her abdomen slashed open, flowers sprouting from the wound.

Ciznek alerted Katowice detectives on 31 January 1967, dispatching them to Staniak's address at 117 Aleje Wyzwolenia. Police tried the door, but their suspect was out.

Unknown to the authorities, he had already found another victim for his knife.

 

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