Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Who's lying in Krzysztof Olewnik's grave?

From: NPE
Sister breaks down in tears as traumatic case takes another turn
One of the most tragic and controversial criminal cases in post-communist Poland has been turned upside down after allegations surfaced that the body presumed to be that of a murder victim may in fact be someone else’s.

Gdansk prosecutors have agreed to a request from the family of Krzysztof Olewnik for an exhumation to see whether the body lying in a cemetery near Plock is that of the 27-year-old businessman.

Olewnik was kidnapped in 2001, held for ransom, tortured and murdered despite his family paying a ransom of EUR 300,000. Following a witness statement a body, presumed to that of victim’s, was recovered from woodland near Olsztyn in 2006.

But now it turns out that the authorities in charge of the corpse may not have carried out all the procedures necessary to confirm identification, and the fact that prosecutors have agreed to the exhumation is regarded as confirmation that there are serious doubts over the identity.

“We need to be sure that we are lighting candles on our son’s grave,” said Wlodzimierz Olewnik, Krzysztof’s father. “We are trying to avoid thinking about what if it turns out not to be him. At the moment we are in shock, and do not know what to do with ourselves. We asked for an exhumation of the body as soon as we heard about the doubts.”

Along with heaping more anguish on the Olewnik family, legal experts have pointed that the decision to exhume casts doubts doubt over the guilt of a number of individuals now serving gaol sentences for Olewnik’s abduction and murder.

“This will be an earthquake for the Polish justice system,” said Professor Piotr Kruszynski from Warsaw University. “I was amazed and surprised by the news of plans to exhume Krzysztof Olewnik because it could mean that a person was unjustly and unfairly sentenced to life in prison.”

Experts have said that the chances of the body being that of Olewnik’s are 50 per cent, and that there is even a 5 per cent chance that he is still alive.

The Olewnik family has always maintained that their son’s killers had protection from high-placed political figures, and the case is now the subject of a parliamentary enquiry.