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Zdzislaw Marchwicki
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Zdzislaw Marchwicki

Zdzislaw Marchwicki, nicknamed "the Silesian vampire" was the most celebrated Polish serial killer after 1945.

Born 1927 in a low-class family, he saw his father go through five marriages that eventually produced four children - three brothers and a sister, all of whom later stood trial with Zdzislaw for conspiring, possessing stolen goods and obstructing justice.

Marchwicki committed all the killings in a relatively small area in the neighbourhoods of Czeladz, Bedzin, and adjoining towns in Upper Silesia. He started his killing spree in 1964 and continued it, with occasional breaks, till late 1970. Having been apprehended in early 1972, he was tried in a show trial which lasted 10 months, and was sentenced to death in July 1975. The appeal upheld the verdict, with the execution taking place in late 1976.

Marchwicki was charged with killing 14 women and attempting to kill another six, but one case of attempted murder was not proven.

Also sentenced to death was Zdzislaw's brother Jan, with the third brother Henryk receiving a 25-year prison sentence for murder conspiracy. The half-sister, Helena, received a three year sentence for storing small items such as watches and pens that she knew came from Zdzislaw's victims. Similar punishment was meted out to her son, also called Zdzislaw, for failing to inform the police about the conspiracy.

During and after the trial speculations abounded whether Marchwicki was the real vampire. He did not display typical serial killer behaviour, remaining rather passive and demure throughout the proceedings. While in prison awaiting the appeal, he reputedly wrote a diary in which he minutely described his killings and the associated emotional ups and downs. It is, however, firmly established today that the diary was dictated to him by police officers through a fellow prisoner. It seems barely possible that Marchwicki, who dropped out of school at an early age and was rather low on IQ, would write in a style that used complex sentences and included police jargon terms.

Incidentally, one of Marchwicki's fatal victims was the niece of Edward Gierek, then the Upper Silesian communist party leader, although both the prosecution and the police investigators denied being pressured by political forces.