Murder in the Woods

A horse farmer suspected in the deaths of two men from southeastern Poland has been charged with murder despite an apparent claim of self-defence.

Nearly a month after 28-year-old Marcin Dziura of Rzeszow and Bogdan Kenar, 35, from Iwonicz, went missing, the prime suspect, Piotr M., led police investigators to the bodies of the missing men. Their remains were buried in a wooded area near Bukowsko in Poland’s Podkarpackie region. The bodies were retrieved, and family members identified them.

The men were reported missing on October 19th, four days after they failed to return to their homes after a planned trip to collect a horse from the suspect’s ranch, Wernejowka, near Pu?awy. Dziura had worked at the suspect’s ranch and was owed money and the horse was offered as payment. Dziura’s friend Kenar went along to assist but had not worked at the farm and may not have known the suspect directly.

The suspect has claimed he shot the men in self-defence, fearing wolves or intruders. But investigators say the killings were calculated and planned well in advance, with perhaps the motive being jealousy of Dziura’s acquaintance with a woman who also worked at the farm. It’s also thought that Dziura may have witnessed the suspect fighting with another worker. It’s likely that Dziura was told to come alone to collect the horse and Kenar was a victim of circumstance. Police reports show that Kenar was shot through the back into the heart, while Dziura was bound and gagged and may have been forced to write a note before he was killed with two shots from the back.

The suspect reportedly held a valid registration for a sporting rifle and shotgun, and is described as a fit man who was very familiar with the outdoors in the region.

When first interviewed, police reported the suspect had claimed not to have seen the men on October 15th, the day they set off for his farm and then went missing. Searches commenced of possible locations where the men may have had a car accident, perhaps driving into a river, pond or bush-covered ditch. Searchers checked forests near Pulawy, a reservoir in Sieniawa and made enquiries into border areas of Germany and Slovakia. The family hired a private detective to aid in the search. Friends of the men also used the popular Polish social networking site Nasza Klasa to get the word out.

Meanwhile, police had evidence that the suspect, Piotr M., had contact with the men about the time the two went missing. Text messages sent from the men’s phones to people on their contact lists were determined to originate from near the suspect’s farm, according to police and media reports. A letter that was recovered during the investigation suggested the men had left the area of their own accord, but families of the men were surprised and doubted its authenticity. Police also found that the suspect bought plastic sheeting at a store in Rymanow the day before the men arrived. The bodies were found wrapped in plastic.

The suspect, when confronted with the evidence during questioning by a prosecutor in early November, admitted to the shootings and led investigators to the bodies. Police say the site was so remote and difficult to get to that without the suspect’s cooperation the bodies may have never been found. The car the men used to drive to the farm the day they disappeared was located the same day the bodies were found and was parked in the centre of Przemysl, nearly 90 km away from the hidden graves in Bukowsko.

Since the discovery of the men’s deaths, friends have established a blog to their memory and post updates of the investigation and case. The blog, Solidarni z Bogdanem i Marcinem (Supporters of Bogdan and Marcin), has photos of Kenar and Dziura and keeps readers updated on the progress of the case and offers them a chance to post their condolences.

Dziura was respected for his work with horses. His sister told TVN the horse he was expecting to receive as payment was to be used to help build his own horse operation. One reader of the blog knew Dziura and described him as “a very nice and honest boy that would never hurt anyone.”

The men’s funerals were held in November with hundreds, including the very shocked horse farming community, turning out to offer sympathies.

Although now remanded to custody for only three months, the suspect will likely be held for the duration of the investigation and throughout the trial. The suspect is reported to have had an accident a few years ago, with subsequent brain surgery, and he will undergo a mental examination as part of the investigation. The suspect faces life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.

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