Disappearance of Henry Borynski

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Henry Borynski (born c.1911) was a Polish priest who disappeared on 13 July 1953 in Bradford, Yorkshire. Borynski was the Roman Catholic chaplain to the Polish community in Bradford. At the time of his disappearance Borynski was described as being 6 ft (180 cm) tall, and weighing 14 stone (200 lb; 89 kg). His disappearance remains unsolved.


Borynski was appointed as chaplain to the Bradford Polish community in October 1952.[1] There were over 6,000 European refugees from Communism in Bradford in 1953, including 1,500 Polish.[2]

It was intended for Borynski to replace Canon Boleslaw Martynellis as priest to the Bradford Polish community.[3] It has been argued that Martynellis, as a Lithuanian, had been resented by the nationalistic Polish community.[3] Martynellis had refused to leave Bradford and relocate elsewhere, and continued to perform Mass for the small local Lithuanian community.[2] It was subsequently reported in the Daily Mirror that Martynellis and Borynski were at "loggerheads", and that Martynellis had been "sacked".[3] Martynellis denied that he had been dismissed, and claimed that he had resigned from his post due to ill health.[4]

Borynski was one of several Yorkshire-based Polish chaplains who led protests in October 1952 against the activities of Soviet agents in the Bradford area.[2] It was rumoured that officials from the Soviet Embassy in London had visited refugees' homes after dark, pressuring them to return to Eastern Europe. Refugees had also received letters pressuring them to return to their own countries.[2]

Martynellis had spent 18 months in a Soviet concentration camp in Siberia at the start of World War II.[2]


Borynski received two telephone calls on 13 July 1953.[5] Following the first telephone call, he visited Canon Martynellis. Martynellis later told reporters that Borynski had come to see him because he said he had received a telephone call from someone purporting to be speaking on his behalf. Martynellis had not phoned him, nor had authorised anyone to make the telephone call.[5]

Later in the evening, Borynski received a second telephone call from a man speaking Polish.[5] Borynski was heard by his Polish housekeeper to speak in short, clipped sentences during the call, different from his normal cheerful disposition. Borynski said "Now this has come, I go", and "I'm going to play detective". He left his lodgings at Little Horton Lane wearing an overcoat and hat, which he rarely did on a summer's evening. Borynski left his wallet and personal papers at the house, and had 10 shillings on his person.[5]

Borynski was not normally secretive, but he was reported to have taken the call in a low voice, with his hand cupped around the mouthpiece.[3]


Police described Martynellis as the "main pivot" of their enquiries, and searched his home three times.[6]

British Police were alerted to look for Borynski, though they thought it unlikely that he had been kidnapped.[5] In November a question was asked of Borynski's disappearance in the House of Lords by Lord Vansittart. The Home Secretary replied to Vansittart that nothing suggested that he was the victim of foul play.[7]

John Heenan was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds at the time of Borynski's disappearance. Heenan later became Archbishop of Westminster and was made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI.[8] As Bishop, Heenan advised police to exclude Martynellis as a suspect in Borynski's disappearance, and called suggestions of his involvement "absurd". Martynellis was never charged before his death.[8] A month after Borynski's disappearance Martynellis was found collapsed at his home.[8] Martynellis subsequently claimed that he had been visited by two men who ordered him to 'keep quiet priest'.[8] Two years after Borynski's disappearance Martynellis died of a heart attack.[8]

In 1962 it was claimed that assassin Bogdan Staschynski said that he had killed Borynski using a cyanide spray, and buried his body on Ilkley Moor. The reports of Staschynski's involvement were claimed to result from mistaken identity.[9]


In 2003 a retired British police detective, Bob Taylor, claimed on an edition of the BBC's Inside Out programme that Borynski was murdered by the Polish Secret Police.[10] Taylor claimed that Martynellis, a colleague of Borynski, was involved with Polish agents in arranging Borynski's abduction, saying that "Martynellis may have been told that this was the way to keep his old job and that he did not realise what he was getting involved in until it was too late."[8][10] Taylor said of Catholic officials that they "knew more than they disclosed to police in Bradford at the time.[8]

It has also been speculated that Borynski was murdered by an overzealous member of Martynellis' Lithuanian congregation, who wished to see the priest reinstated.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Matchsticks Spell Warning to Priest". Daily Telegraph. 10 August 1953.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Missing Priest's Friend Dies". The Catholic Herald. 7 October 1955. Retrieved 3 June 2013.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e Baker, Peter (28 August 1953). "Where is this priest?". Daily Mirror.
  4. ^ "'Not Jealous' of Missing Priest". Daily Telegraph. 24 July 1953.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Kidnapping of Priest Feared". The Sunday Herald. 19 July 1953. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  6. ^ "50 Police Heads Confer over Priest". Daily Telegraph. 12 August 1953.
  7. ^ "Disappearance of Polish Priest". Hansard - 10 November 1953. Hansard. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Fresh claims in unsolved Bradford murder". BBC News Online. 27 January 2003. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  9. ^ "'I Murdered Priest' Story is Denied". The Catholic Herald. 2 November 1962. Retrieved 6 June 2013.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ a b "Riddle of Polish priest's disappearance". BBC News Online. 27 January 2003. Retrieved 2 June 2013.

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