Two Separate Fires, Two Deaths: The Murder of Dr Danuta Kaczmarsjka, 1986, UK.
This murder was already strange before some writers got hold of it. Here you have a 53 year old general practice doctor called Dr Danuta Kaczmarsjka. On 21st January 1986 this lady tells her sister on the telephone she is expecting a visitor in the afternoon of the 22nd.
She is seen out and about in the morning and calls her surgery to check on things at about 1pm.
Later neighbours in Coniston Close, Hall Green, Birmingham smelt smoke. They dialled 999 and emergency services found where it was coming from. The source was poor Dr Kaczmarsjka. Someone had hit her repeatedly with a hatchet(1) and then, once she was gravely injured, they had poured accelerant on her and set her on fire. She had severe head injuries and though there was smoke in her lungs it was likely she was unconscious when the fire was set. In the past it had not been revealed what that accelerant was. Last year a detective who said he was first on the scene gave an interview. He was making the point that the murder was premeditated and demonstrated this by saying the killer had brought petrol with them.
This detective said that he was very surprised this case had not been cleared up. He had been part of a 150 officer investigation. As is the case often, thousands of witnesses were interviewed and all the stops were pulled out. All these years later though the killer is still free.
What would People Think Of You If You Died And All Your Secrets Tumbled Out?
I noticed straight away the reference to this lady being a ‘Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ character. That is a big label to place on anyone. The book Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a horror tale about a mad scientist who creates a concoction. When he drank it he became a murderous monster. When I look at the article this woman was no monster. She had a private life for sure. This made nailing her killer difficult that is true, but Jekyll and Hyde? Hardly.
The good doctor, and from what I could see she had been a good doctor to the community for 15 years, is described as lonely and looking for love. This love she sought out in personal adverts in contact press and she frequented the gay scene. Given she was a GP and people like to judge, any secrecy about this aspect of her life is understandable.
Other strange references to this respected lady can be found online. In another article it was said she associated with drug addicts and homosexuals. As if the two were always one and the same. Incredible reporting and I would argue the exact opposite to words that could encourage people to come forward.
If I died now little would come out of any great interest. I can’t claim that has always been the case. The ‘secrets’ would hardly have been ‘secrets’ as such, but the odd detail might have mildly shocked some that I know. The reality is having a private life and having a ‘seedy’ life (as was mentioned in another writing) are often very different matters. If you are murdered then the cops have to do their job. Nothing you hold sacred will remain private, but does the press have to use such language? The poor woman was battered to death and set on fire. That is what counts.
The Murder Was One Of Respected General Practise Doctor in Birmingham
So I have picked around the daft language and basically you have a frenzied attack. A Crimewatch UK reconstruction came to my aid during this time and I have linked it below.
Sometime between 3.25/3.30 pm and 4 pm that Wednesday someone walked up to the three storey house and went inside. It would have been getting dusk at about that time. I picture a warm welcome and bit of chat and a popping of the cork. Maybe there would have been laughter, then the attack. There would have been people about, if not in the neat close, but on the busy main road that it joins. This killer used a hatchet that was owned by the victim. A key to her house was taken when the murderer locked the place as they left.
Dr Kaczmarsjka had been out buying ingredients for a dinner guest early on in the day. This meal was part prepared when she died. The female guest was identified and eliminated from the investigation. Also cleared of any involvement was a gentleman she met on a date not long before she died. This man gave good information to the police, but could not help about the day of the murder.
The attacker may have jumped back in a car or just as likely wrapped themselves in a winter coat and strolled off onto Stratford Road. Equally they could have escaped along a pedestrian footpath onto Fox Hollies Rd. The latter would have been my choice. There you could have parked a car without much notice being taken.
Where they cunning? Maybe not, the history of unsolved crime is full of killers having a run of dumb luck. Whoever they were they managed to hold it all together later. The police followed up Dr Kaczmarsjka private life and it is possible they interviewed them.
The ex detective was quoted by The Birmingham Mail in 2020. He is of the opinion that it might well have been a woman who was responsible. He mentioned that women are a bit more prone to frenzied attacks than men when they kill. I will look at that, but meanwhile maybe you could consider another suggestion of his. The doctor was Polish by birth and he suggests that the attacker may have also come from there.
I bow to his greater knowledge and experience. He was there at the scene in 1986 and doubtless has good access to the facts that came from the original investigation. From my humble observations whoever did this was pretty switched on even if their coming and going was missed by witnesses.
They did not count on the fire destroying evidence. Many imprisoned murderers did. No, this person took the bottle from which the drink came and the hatchet with them. The glasses remained though and they had been drunk from. Inconsistency of little note I guess as the killer could have held the glass in finger and thumb and wiped it afterwards. I do think it points towards the visitor arriving with the fizz and therefore being focused on their fingerprints on the bottle.
The Curious Coincidence Of Two Fire Deaths At Dr Kaczmarsjka’s Home
A curious note is that four years earlier a friend of Dr Kaczmarsjka’s had died in a fire in the same house. According to the Birmingham Mail his name was Thomas Gleeson and he had been staying with her. The inquest verdict was one of misadventure. Presumably they found evidence that Mr Gleeson had made some error and caused his demise.
Was this coincidence to a high level or does it fit in with how Dr Kaczmarsjka was treated as she lay unconscious? I read a lot about cases from all over the world. I have never heard of two fires, years apart, that claimed two lives from the same house.
Her body was unrecognisable and dental records had to be consulted to confirm her identity. Equally Mr Gleeson’s body had been unrecognisable. The news report says Mr Gleeson was only identified by some buttons and what was left of a shoe. The pair had apparently known each other for 17 years by the time he died in 1982. In the reconstruction the actress mentions this tragedy. She says that there was a terrible accident and a person ‘she had lived with for sometime’ died.
A True Mystery?
The case is described as Agatha Christie like. It reminds me of The Murder On The Orient Express. There the plot was based on the Lindbergh Baby case. Years later all the bereaved and affected killed the man they thought responsible for the death of an infant. Here we have Dr Kaczmarsjka being left, years later, in the same state as Mr Gleeson. I draw no conclusion, I only know what is written after reading through media coverage. It is just a thought.
The officer from the case seems to think this was a murder carried out by a person of long association with Dr Kaczmarsjka. He thinks that they were celebrating something like an anniversary. If it was an anniversary it hardly created a celebratory atmosphere. Maybe they were more marking the passing of an event. One that someone was not all that happy about.
I had to stand guard over murder scenes a few times in the 12 years I was a copper. One of them was a guy who had returned to his flat with a male companion he had just met. The stranger killed him. It was a brutal stabbing, but as I recall money was taken. Most of the time, as that ex detective says, dates that turn into this sort of attack have a financial point to them. Something is either taken or the victim is sexually assaulted. Nothing was taken and Dr Kaczmarsjka’s remains would have made it difficult to determine if a sexual assault had taken place. Regardless who buys pink fizz for a casual date? No-one that I know of.
I am going to look at this in a bit more detail. I certainly hope the case gets some jolt in the near future.
(1) The weapon is described as an axe in several sources. The picture shown in the Crimewatch programme is a hatchet. An axe, as you probably know, is hard to conceal. A hatchet is not. Also the detective in Crimewatch calls it an axe, but says that it was from the doctor’s home. It is more likely then it was a hatchet. Technically axe is correct, but when it comes to asking for witnesses and are talking about a person carrying one they might well discount someone they saw without a long handled lumberjack style tool.
The below one makes the remarks about a seedy life and drug addicts etc. It is from 2010.