Karol Kot

Crime Files

Karol Kot was born on 18 December 1946 in Krakow, Poland. His father was an engineer for the army and his mother was an activist for the League of Women. Karol’s parents came from well educated families and provided their son with a good life. From an early age Karol exhibited disturbing tastes. As a child he would torment small animals. During summer trips he enjoyed visiting a local slaughterhouse to see the animals being killed. He often helped to kill the calves and had a bizarre habit of drinking the warm blood of the freshly killed animals. He also killed frogs, chickens and magpies. Sometimes he would stop his mother from killing fish, only to poke their eyes out and lick the blood off them.

As a teenager, Karol tried to enroll at college, but a lack of places meant he did not get in. He eventually got a place at the Technical Energy School in Krakow where teachers found him to be a good student. During high school he joined a shooting club and quickly became his coach’s favourite student. At one point he was ranked tenth in the Polish juniors category for the sport. Karol’s coach even gave him the role of deputy for economic affairs at the club, allowing him to carry the keys to the weapons and ammunition store. "I could slay the whole of Krakow," he confided to a journalist after being apprehended.

The coach invited Karol to his home, trusted him, and set him up as a good role model to his son. However he did not realize that his son was already on Karol’s list of potential victims. It is not known whether Karol decided against murdering his coach’s son or whether he was caught before he could carry out this plan.

After Kot’s arrest, the coach sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice, in which he protested the arrest. Later, when he finally realised that his favourite pupil really had committed these crimes, he sent Kot a letter full of indignation and regret, in which he asked him to return his sportsman badge because he was unworthy of the title of athlete. Another of Karol’s fascinations were weapons and torture, or, as he said once said himself, “everything that serves for human destruction”. He had an impressive number of knives in his collection. Grateful that their son had an interest, his parents were happy to give him money to buy new knives.

Using an air rifle that he kept in the house, Karol used to shoot meat which his mother had bought for dinner, just to experience the power of the bullet. Karol loved reading books on human anatomy and toxicology, and he had knowledge of forensic medicine. He was also fascinated by the history of concentration camps. “I dreamed about mass murder in gas chambers, roundups, dividing people. I wanted to murder all women”. Living with Karol was hard on his younger sister. When their parents were away he would physically and mentally abuse her.

After a disappointing day at the shooting range, he would beat her to relieve his frustration, with anything from a hand strap to a belt and even with a coat hanger. Once, he almost poked her eye out. When she cried, he would lock her in a room. In school, Karol experimented with poisons. He once poured arsenic into a classmate’s drink but because this gave the drink a bad smell he poured it away without tasting it. Karol would also fill beer bottles with arsenic and leave them lying around to tempt random members of the public. Luckily, no one was tempted. He also tried a similar poisoning attempt in a restaurant by spiking a glass of orange juice, but again, no one was tempted by the drink.

Karol’s murderous interests continued to grow. He had always been fascinated with fire and developed this interest by trying to set a house alight. However, when he returned to see how much damage the fire had done, he was surprised to find that there was not even smoke. In the basement of another house he set fire to some rags and loose papers - again without effect. He later tried to set fire to a wooden toilet at the shooting range, but a caretaker managed to extinguish it.

Despite his popularity among the teaching staff at school, Karol was not so well-liked by his classmates. He was quiet and withdrawn, almost morbidly shy. The only person he trusted, who tried to understand him and felt comfortable in his company, was Danuta, an older girl from his sports club. She was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts. He confided all his secrets and aspirations to her, but she initially she did not take his sadistic tendencies seriously.

In the winter of 1966, Kot confided to Danuta that he found inflicting wounds pleasurable. This confession would later become very useful to the investigation, when Danuta raised her suspicions with the police.

The Aftermath

A few months after Kot’s original conviction, writer Boguslaw Sygit interviewed him. The interview revealed extensive details of Kot’s crimes, and also revealed the workings of a criminal mind. This information was very useful to the work of forensic psychologists. Most of what we know today about Kot and his crimes comes from this interview, which was published in Sygit’s book.

The Arrest

After so many attacks, the police were under enormous pressure to find the culprit, and so extended their investigation. They increased the number of police patrols in Krakow and officers were told to pay specific attention to young men behaving abnormally. Investigators analysing the attacks discovered similarities between them. It was found that the killer always acted alone, chose victims weaker than himself, and attacked suddenly, inflicting blows to the abdomen and upper back. In addition they didn’t believe the attacks to be robberies as the perpetrator never spoke with the victims and never took anything from them.

It was known that the attacker was a young man, but still police couldn’t find their suspect. Although the police had a report from a taxi driver who had accurately described Kot, authorities from the communist Polish People's Republic decided that a representative of the so-called “private initiative” could not be a credible witness.

Meanwhile, Kot was enjoying his criminal success. When the newspapers published a photograph of the young boy he had killed, he was so glad that he ran to his friend Danuta and boasted that it was his work. He planned to wallpaper his entire room with photographs of his young victim. Danuta did not believe his story, but, after his next attack, Kot again told Danuta everything and she began to suspect that he really was the attacker. His story was so detailed that she believed that it could not be a product of a sick imagination and so she went to the police.

Kot was arrested on 1 June shortly after he graduated from school. There is a theory that the police deliberately delayed the arrest until after his final exams. Passing the exams could be used in court to prove the sanity and mental level of the accused. Officers who arrived at Kot’s apartment were astonished when they were met by a sympathetic, kind and polite boy. Initially, Kot denied everything, but when confronted with his suspected victims, he confessed to everything and proudly began to talk about his achievements. To one of his surviving victims who recognized him, he said: “Your memory is good, come here so I can finish you off”Kot gave a very detailed testimony of his crimes and of his plans that he had not yet managed to carry out. The plans that he revealed were so extreme that the court had them witheld. Kot did not display any sign of contrition or remorse.

Timeline

Born 18 December 1946Victims September 1964 - Attempted murder of first victim 23 September 1964 - Attempted murder of 73-year-old woman 29 September 1964 - Murder of 77-year-old woman Summer 1965 - Attempted murder of friend, Danuta 1966 - Attempted poison of bystanders in a bar 13 February 1966 - Murder of 11-year-old boy 14 April 1966 - Attempted murder of 7-year-old girlArrest 1 June 1966Sentence 14 July 1967 - Kot found guilty and sentenced to deathAppeal 22 November 1967 – An appeal to the Supreme Court replaced the death penalty sentence with that of life imprisonment.Appeal Overturned 17 March 1968 - The General Prosecutor invoked the right to revise sentencing and Karol Kot was again sentenced to death by hanging.Death 16 May 1968 - Kot executed by hanging

The Trial

Kot was accused of two murders, four attempted murders, six poisoning attempts and four counts of arson. The trial aroused great interest amongst the public, who demanded he receive the death penalty. During visits to the crime scenes, and during the court hearings, Kot smiled, and looked like good-natured boy and when weapons or detailed descriptions were presented to the court, he visibly cheered up. He was relaxed and seemed unaware of the possible sentence he would receive.Problems soon emerged when it came to assessing his mental state at the time of the offences. Two teams of experts were consulted, whose opinions of Kot’s sanity differed.Forensic experts from Krakow found Kot to be a psychopath with a ‘deviation from the norms of temperament, drive and character, coupled with a lack of higher emotionality’. They presented to the court that Kot was a limited sanity murderer who could not adapt to social norms.

In turn, psychiatrists believed that Kot was aware of the harmful effects of his actions and was even able to control them. Elements of the crimes such as his ability to refrain from attack in certain circumstances, helped to sustain their theory of Kot’s overall sanity.Consequently, the court upheld the opinion of the psychiatric experts and found Kot guilty, condemning him to the death penalty.As Kot was only sentenced for the murder of the 11-year-old boy, his lawyers filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, who then also took into consideration the testimony of the forensic experts along with Kot’s young age and overturned the death penalty ruling and instead sentenced Kot to life imprisonment.The General Prosecutor of the Polish People's Republic, however, had the right to revise the sentence and in March 1968, reconvened the Supreme Court. Once again Kot was sentenced to death by hanging. The judgment of the Supreme Court was based on the cruel murder of the 11-year-old boy and Kot’s attempt to kill the 7-year-old girl, stating: “Taking in to account, the defenseless beings, his cynicism and lack of remorse, the only right punishment is the death penalty” Kot was executed on 16 May 1968. An autopsy of Karol Kot showed that he had been suffering from a previously undiagnosed large brain tumour.  

The Crimes

Kot’s first attack took place in September 1964. His victim was visiting a church in Krakow when she saw a young man deep in prayer. When she also knelt to pray,  Kot pulled out a bayonet concealed in his jacket and stabbed her in the back, aiming for her heart, intending for the attack to be fatal. Kot hurried out of the church and when he was a safe distance away he stopped to lick the blood from the knife. Although she was seriously injured and in severe shock, the attack was not fatal. She also managed to recall that her attacker had a red shield stitched onto his jacket, indicating to the police that he was a high school student.A few days later Kot lay in wait for his next victim at a tram stop. He set his sights on a 73-year-old woman, who had left the tram and was walking home. Kot followed her. When she reached the steps leading up to her front door, Kot pulled out a knife and stabbed her. The attack caused the woman to stumble and fall down the stairs. Kot was certain that this attack had been fatal and quickly left the scene. The elderly woman survived, but never regained her full health. She broke her spine and her legs were left paralysed.On 29 September 1964, Kot decided to attack again. He was walking around town when he saw an old woman go into a church. As with his previous victims, he stabbed the 77-year-old in the back, however this time, his attack proved to be fatal. Before she died, the victim managed to whisper to a nun that her attacker was a young man. Meanwhile, hiding away from the crime scene, Kot licked the blood from the blade of his knife.Kot’s criminal activity then went quiet. However, during a trip to Tyniec in 1965 he attempted to murder his friend Danuta, by putting a knife to her throat. Her reaction to this attack probably saved her life. She had laughed at Kot, before calmly explaining that if he killed her, he would immediately be the main suspect.

Early in 1966 Kot began experiment with poisons in order to claim more innocent victims. At a bar he poured poison into a bottle of vinegar and then left. He then monitored the newspapers, but to no avail, to find any mentions of poisoning.On Sunday 13 February 1966, Kot wanted to kill again and went to the Kosciuszko Mound area of Krakow. He knew that he would be able to find people walking alone here. An 11-year-old boy was pulling his sled when Kot attacked him. He grabbed him by the neck with one hand, and stabbed the eleven times boy with the other hand. Despite the violence of the attack, Kot was so discreet that no one noticed.Two months later on 14 April, Kot was sitting on some steps outside of an apartment buulding, waiting for his next victim. A 7-year old girl came outside to check the mailbox. Kot stabbed her eight times. Thanks to a quick and efficient rescue, she survived, but all the young girl could remember was that her attacker was wearing a white scarf. After the attack Kot went to a police station to extend his gun license and then ate dinner.