Murder, He Wrote Author Sentenced to 25 Years over Homicide He Described in Novel

A Polish author has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after he wrote a novel that bore startling parallels to a real-life slaying. He claimed that the work was inspired by media reports about the killing.

The victim was dumped in the Oder river, shown here in Wroclaw.

The victim was dumped in the Oder river, shown here in Wroclaw.

Absolute realism is a must in the genre of crime fiction. Novelists are often inspired by real-life incidents, while fans demand plots to conform to real police procedure.

But for Polish writer Krystian Bala, his art imitated life just a little too closely -- he was put on trial for murder after prosecutors decided his 2003 novel "Amok" bore too many similarities to a real case.

A court in the Polish city of Wroclaw Wednesday sentenced Bala, a 34-year-old travel writer and photographer, to 25 years in prison over the 2000 murder of Dariusz Janiszewski. The court ruled that Bana planned and directed the killing, but said there was not enough evidence to convict him of the murder itself.

Public prosecutors claimed Bala kidnapped Janiszewski, reportedly a well-liked businessman, from his office, tortured him and murdered him. The tied-up body was thrown into the Oder river and later washed up on the banks of the river near Wroclaw.

Bala became the prime suspect after police realized his novel "Amok" contained details of the murder that they claimed could only be known to the murderer or investigators. In the novel, the fictional victim also owned a small advertising agency like Janiszewski, was tortured and was also tied up in a similar way to the real victim.

Chief Inspector Jack Wroblewski was tipped off to read the novel in 2005 by an anonymous caller. Wroblewski said he had read the novel several times, amazed by the parallels with the real crime. Bala insisted that he was innocent and that he based the novel on media stories about the murder.

The plot was thickened by the fact that Bala appeared to know the victim personally. Prosecutors believed the motive for the murder was jealousy -- Bala supposedly thought that his estranged wife was having an affair with Janiszewski.

There was also other circumstantial evidence against Bala. Telephone records showed he phoned the victim before he was abducted. He was also alleged to have sold the victim's mobile phone on the Internet just days after the murder.

Bala's lawyer Karol Weglinski emphasized during the trial that it was still not clear what happened to the victim during the last three days of his life or where the accused was during that time. He also argued that it was not certain that the mobile phone belonged to Janiszewski. However, a computer specialist called by the court said it was almost certain that the phone belonged to the victim.

Prosecutors said that Bala confessed to the murder during interrogation but later retracted his statement. However, Bala claimed he was forced by police to make the confession.

After the last day of testimony on Monday, Bala complained to reporters that police had not returned his computer, which they had seized, the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported Tuesday. Bala claimed to have files on the computer for his second novel "Delirik," which he wanted to work on while in custody.



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