Colombian Police Suspect 22 Homeless Murdered for Their Bodies
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Twenty-two bodies found in a university morgue appear to be the gruesome harvest of a ring that kills homeless people to sell their cadavers to medicine, police say.
Ten of the victims were clubbed to death Friday and Saturday night in a building of the Barranquilla Free University while residents of the Carribbean city were enjoying carnival.
The victims, seven men and three women, were homeless people who earn their livings collecting trash from the streets.
An eleventh victim escaped with serious wounds and said university security guards were the killers.
Police were holding five of the guards Monday after Oscar Rafael Hernandez told Bogota’s El Tiempo newspaper that campus security guards had asked him to come to the university Saturday night to pick up some cardboard cartons.
″When I arrived (at the university) to collect the cartons, two men came at me with clubs,″ he said from his hosptial bed.
He said he was beaten in the head and left for dead. He later escaped and rushed to police.
The university’s president told police that a group of homeless people had tried to break into the school and had been repelled by the security guards.
Free University President Ramon Navarro Mojica on Monday said the bodies had been bought legally from the Legal Medical Institute of Barranquilla. But the medical institute denied supplying the bodies to the university.
Police said they found the bodies of the 10 homeless people in the university’s morgue and the remains of 12 others there too. They are now investigating the possibility that poor people, without families, have been systematically killed and their bodies sold to the university medical school for use by students.
Police Col. Hernando Sandoval Salamanca said Monday that university directors had not yet proven the 22 bodies were legally obtained.
″The cadavers had not been subjected to an autopsy and they did not appear to have died of natural cuases or in accidents,″ he said. ″They appear to have been severely beaten.″