The "Skin Hunters" ("Łowcy skór" in Polish) is the media nickname for four hospital casualty workers from the Polish city of Łódź, who were convicted of murdering at least five elderly patients and selling information regarding their deaths to competing funeral homes. The price of the bribes paid to the killers was billed to the family of the deceased as an additional funeral charge. The perpetrators were apprehended in 2002. Their descriptive designation was coined by a newspaper article which first brought the story to the public's attention.
On January 20, 2007 four employees from a hospital casualty department in Łódź were sentenced. The perpetrators were shown to have killed mostly elderly patients using the muscle relaxant pancuronium (brand name Pavulon). The four workers then sold information about the deceased patients to funeral homes, so they could contact the relatives before other funeral homes could. They exacted bribes ranging from 12,000 to over 70,000 zloty.
The killers are:
- Paramedic Andrzej Nowocień was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of four patients and for helping Karol Banaś in a further murder. He confessed to more than 50 murders to a cellmate.
- Paramedic Karol Banaś was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for the "particularly cruel" ("szczególnie okrutne") murder of Ludmiła Ś. and for helping Andrzej Nowocień murder the other patients.
- Doctor Janusz Kuliński was sentenced to six years and banned from practising medicine for 10 years, for willfully endangering 10 patients.
- Doctor Paweł Wasilewski was sentenced to five years and banned from practising medicine for 10 years for the willful endangering of four patients.
The investigation into the scandal is still ongoing and a total of forty other members of the casualty department are under investigation, as are the owners of a local funeral home for receiving information regarding the deaths of patients. The funeral home added the cost of the bribes it paid to the killers to the bills that the families of the deceased paid for their funerals.
The scandal was first brought to public attention on January 23, 2002 in an article in the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza by Tomasz Patora, Marcin Stelmasiak and Przemysław Witkowski. They described how the hospital workers or paramedics would call funeral homes regarding patient deaths in order to receive a bribe, and sometimes even killed patients. The dead patients were called "skins" and so the article was called "Skin Hunters" (Łowcy skór).
In popular culture
- "Paramedic held in funeral scam". BBC News. 2003-12-16. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- This is one of the drugs administered during a lethal injection in the United States. It was also used by medical serial killer Efren Saldivar.
- "Proces łowców skór: Chwalił się, jak zabijał" (in Polish). Wyborcza.pl. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
- "Sprawa "łowców skór" - kasacje oddalone, wyroki ostateczne". Gazeta Wyborcza. 28 October 2009. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
- "Kolejni "łowcy skór" za kratami". Tvn24.pl. 2008-07-30. Retrieved 2014-01-18.