Katarzyna Zowada was a Polish student at Jagiellonian University who went missing in November 1998. Her skin was found months later when it became stuck in the propeller of a tugboat on the Vistula River. Detectives determined Zowada was beaten, tortured, and then skinned alive.
It was January 6th, 1999 when the tugboat captain heard something jam up his propeller. Tree limbs were the usual culprit, which could be pulled out in a matter of minutes.
The crew removed the latch and was immediately hit with a putrid smell that was unfamiliar to them.
Almost like a rubber band, something had wrapped itself completely around the propeller blades.
It was when the crew began tugging on the foreign object that the human ear was spotted.
Zowada was 23-years-old when she went missing in November 1998, after she was supposed to meet her mother at the doctor’s office.
Polish law enforcement worked with Portuguese and American 3D analysis teams and DNA experts to determine that the skin belonged to Katarzyna. Even the FBI helped by providing a psych profile on a potential killer.
They referred to the case name as Leather.
The psych profile showed that the killer “was a sadist, enjoying the harassment of women” and may likely be a prior convict. Also, judging by the brutal beating Katarzyna received, the killer most likely studied martial arts.
“As a result of the studies, it was determined that the unfortunate 23-year-old student was beaten first, then her neck, armpits and groin were cut with a knife and she died from blood loss. Then her skin was flayed.”
The experts determined Katarzyna died of blood loss and the killer ripped her organs out of her body while she was still alive.
Her attacker severely beat her “with great force”, leading investigators to surmise that her killer trained in martial arts.
It was determined that the killer cut the skin with extreme precision.
“The victim was probably alive when she was skinned. A bit later, part of the buttock and the missing leg were found.”
Robert Janczewski was arrested and charged with the brutal murder of Zowada, but nearly 20 years after.
Considered a “weirdo” and a “freak” by many Polish newspapers, Robert Janczewski seemed to fit the killer’s profile.
He was fired from his job at the Institute of zoology after many of the animals he cared for were mysteriously killed. When questioned, Janczewski could not provide a reason for their sudden deaths.
As a child, Janczewski abused cats and dogs. He was raised in a household of religious fervor and was constantly beaten by his father.
Law enforcement also claimed that Janczewski wore women’s clothes, spied on his neighbors, “was bisexual”, described the murder in his private diary, and even routinely visited the grave of Katarzyna Zowada.
Investigators described how the murder occurred in their official report.
It is known that Catherine was tortured before her death. The right limb over the ankle joint had to be strapped to something, until finally, between December 7 and 14, 1998, the perpetrator choked the victim with a chain. Before that, he had been giving her drugs. He also broke her femur and pelvis by punching a barbell and a bodybuilding plate. Stab wounds, chop wounds, and lacerations were also discovered. He probably also sexually abused her when she was dead.
Robert Janczewski is currently incarcerated for the murder of Katarzyna Zowada.