Police have arrested a gang which murdered as many as 60 people in order to drain their bodies of fat and sell it on an international black-market for prices as much as $15,000 a litre.
The Peruvian “brotherhood”, based in remote areas of the Andes and Amazon, allegedly murdered dozens of people for their fat, collecting it for sale.
Prosecutors describe the gruesome details of the murders:
“Those detained have confessed that after assassinating their victims, they slit their throats, hung the torsos and limbs on ‘S’ shaped hooks. Later, to extract the fat, they lit candles to heat the room.”
This fat would seep from the cadavers and be collected in containers. One gang member was actually arrested in possession of 17 litres of such “human fat,” police say.
Police claim that the group may have killed as many as 60 people over three decades, though so far they have secured confessions to only 5 slayings over 5 years. Remains of a number of apparent victims have also been uncovered.
Police go on to claim that the group was part of an international trade in human fat, with “European laboratories” paying $15,000 a litre for the fat; they have issued international arrest warrants for two Italians supposedly involved.
Prosecutors insist that, though bizarre, this is the truth:
“We are not making this up. They have confessed to this. That’s what’s coming out now.”
However, there is much scepticism over the notion that they could really be trading in human fat, especially at such prices; the Dean of a Peruvian medical college explains:
“It doesn’t make sense that the fat would be sold at prices of US$15,000 dollars a liter – hundreds of liters of human fat are obtained every day at cosmetic clinics, and disposed of. It can be used in implants, but the fat implanted must be that of the same person undergoing the procedure.”
Adding to the dubious nature of the crimes is the fact that authorities have taken to calling the criminals “witches” and “pishtacos,” referring to a traditional ghoul-like creature (the group supposedly called itself the “Pishtacos of Huallaga”), even going so far as to claim “It’s an Andean myth that we’ve now been able to prove.”
Andean myth and legend is full of tales of such creatures and many believe corpses can be used for magical purposes, to say nothing of the role human sacrifice played in many regional cultures – police maintain the group is also bound up in this.
A combination of police zeal, superstition and perhaps something authorities or perpetrators are unwilling or unable to explain seems to be contributing to a decidedly mysterious case, although that an organised group has been systematically murdering people for some reason seems beyond doubt…