The end of the investigation of the serial Gypsy murders

It has been about a year since the police found the men who were allegedly responsible for several murders of absolutely innocent Gypsies. The murders were usually committed in the dead of night. The perpetrators would throw Molotov cocktails at the Gypsy house or shoot aimlessly through the windows; once the unsuspecting victims came out of the house to see what had happened they were shot to death. There were something like thirteen such attacks over a period of about a year and a half before the police, thanks to the existence of cell phones and the carelessness of the people involved, cracked the case.

And here I think it is worth spending a little time on those fateful cell phones. The police checked five million telephone calls and found three phones and four SIM-cards that looked promising to the investigation. At three of the crime scenes these numbers and cards showed up. It also became obvious that these telephones were used only for communication among the criminals. In the underworld these phones are called "workphones," used only for conspiratorial purposes. There are strict rules for their use, chief among which is that they shouldn't be used for conversations outside of the conspiratorial circle. And there was the rub. On August 3 the get-away car got stuck in the mud. They had no other phone on hand and therefore decided to use their "workphone." That gave the police the evidence they were looking for.

These murders went on for so long and aroused so much public interest and horror that I wrote something every time there was a new murder or attempted murder. The last time I wrote was on August 5, 2009, when I provided a fairly comprehensive list of the cases. Soon afterwards several men were arrested in a night club in Debrecen. Now, a year later, the police announced that they are close to finishing the investigation and are ready to recommend  prosecution. Today was the much awaited press conference.

According to the Nemzeti Nyomozó Iroda (Office of National Investigation) this series of murders was a unique phenomenon not only in Hungary but also in Europe. Murders or attempted murders occurred at nine locations where 78 shots were fired, and at seven places 11 Molotov cocktails were thrown. In the attacks six people died, among them a child. In addition, five people were seriously wounded, including a young girl.  Fifty-five people's lives were threatened during the series of murders or attempted murders.

Not surprisingly the investigators discovered that the attacks were motivated by a hatred of Gypsies. The alleged perpetrators selected their victims with an eye to easy escape. Thus, the victims usually lived at the very edge of the village. The attackers could simply disappear into some wooded area and from there drive away unnoticed.

An incredible amount of effort was put into the investigation in which even the American FBI was involved. Altogether the police interrogated 509 witnesses and talked to "several thousand" people. They asked the opinion of 170 experts and collected 1,915 pieces of evidence. The amount of paperwork was a staggering 33,000 pages. 

The investigation focused on nine cases. On July 21, 2008, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a house in Galgagyörk. The same thing happened in Piricse on August 8 and on August 29 in Tarnabod. Up to this point no one died. However, on November 3 at Nagycsécse two people died as a result of an attack on a house owned by Gypsies. A month later, on December 15, the attackers shot and seriously wounded some people who were working in the yard. On February 23, 2009, a father and his young son died at Tatárszentgyörgy as they were trying to escape from their burning house. On April 23, a man died in Tiszalök, and finally on August 3 a Gypsy was shot at close range.

It was after the last attack and the telephone call that the police became suspicious of two brothers, István and Árpád K., and a bar they frequented in Debrecen. The police were not terribly surprised that István and Árpád were brothers because the DNA samples they collected on site indicated that the some of the attackers were related on the paternal side. The police started watching them, and soon enough they discovered that the sister-in-law of Árpád had a silver Opel Astra that was seen at four of the locations: Galgagyörk, Tarnabod, Alsózsolca, and Nagycsécs. In addition, after the attack in Tiszalök the police stopped a car nearby that was driven by István Cs., another of the accused.

It was on August 21 that the police raided the bar in Debrecen. It was no ordinary  raid: 85 specially trained policemen and 100 detectives stormed the place while other policemen conducted house searches at thirteen locations. They arrested eight people and accused four of the crimes. During the searches they found the weapons that turned out to be stolen in a robbery a couple of years earlier. They found crude maps describing the scenes, the car that was used, and the boots the alleged murderers wore. The detectives also found several maps of places they were supposed "to visit."

Of the four accused three are allegedly involved in the actual murders: István and Árpád K. and Zsolt P. The fourth man, István Cs., was present at two locations as the driver of the get-away car. István K. and Zsolt P. have extensive far-right connections. Both were members of the Keleti Arcvonal Bajtársi Szövetség (Eastern Firing Line Fraternal Society) and Vér és Becsület (Blood and Honor), neo-Nazi organizations. Anyone who wants to know more about these organizations can find detailed descriptions of the Hungarian neo-Nazi movement here. István Cs. may get out of jail in twenty or thirty years, but the other three will most likely spend the rest of their lives in jail.