Police have recategorised an unexplained death 10 months ago as a murder and linked the killing to organised crime as a £10,000 reward is offered to find the culprits.
Piotr Woroneicki died of strangulation last December Parma Crescent, near Clapham Junction station but his death was initially treated as unexplained.
A special post-mortem has now revealed he died of compression to the neck, consistent with the victim being held in a headlock for a prolonged period.
And detectives believe the murder may be linked to an organised crime syndicate. They are trying to identify men who tried to enter the building on five separate occasions in the hours around his death.
A reward of up to £10,000 is being offered by the independent charity Crimestoppers to support detectives.
Police were called at 5.20am on 23 November 2017, to reports of a man found unresponsive on Parma Crescent, Clapham Junction – though he had probably died hours before.
Piotr, originally from Poland, was last seen alive at 11.32pm the night before, Wednesday, 22 November 2017, at New Covent Garden Market in Nine Elms.
A matter of hours later, on the same day, police had been called to reports of an attempted burglary at Piotr’s home address, which was on Clapham Common Northside.
Neighbours had told police that at 11.57pm – half an hour after Piotr was last seen alive – two men gained entry to the communal area of his home. CCTV footage did not show whether the two men entered the victim’s apartment or not. The CCTV showed them leaving the communal area shortly after entering.
Police later found £100,000 in cash and a huge stash of drugs at his home – which had not been taken in a string of five attempts to get access to the flat.
At 3.23am the day after the first attempt to break into his home – Thursday, 23 November and the day Piotr’s body was discovered – two suspects with a set of keys tried to gain entry to the communal area of the house. But the locks had been changed following the attempted break-in the night before. It is unknown if they are the same people who tried to enter the building three and a half hours earlier.
On Friday, 24 November, the day after his death was discovered, three more attempts were made to break into the Clapham Common Northside building:
At 1.49am – Two men got into the building – and to Piotr’s flat.
At 7.37am – The two suspects entered the communal area of the building only.
At 11.10-11.18am – The two men returned and once again gained entry to the communal area of the building.
The five sets of people seem to be different in each piece of footage.
The full post-mortem result was not known until July 2018, and the case was then handed to the Met’s Homicide and Major Crime Commands (HMCC) and the investigation is being led by Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell.
He said: “We have recently taken responsibility for this investigation and I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone who may have known Piotr or have heard anything about his death.
“Any information that you may have could really help this case and we urge you to contact police as soon as possible.
“For some reason or another, these people were intent on gaining entry into Piotr’s apartment, but the motive as to why remains unclear to us.
“We are releasing CCTV footage of two suspects we want to speak to in connection with the attempted burglary. I’m sure that someone watching and listening to the CCTV videos will recognise their voices or maybe their mannerisms or the way they walk. If you think you do know or recognise them, we’d urge you to call us as soon as possible.
“What makes it even more peculiar is that we know that when officers entered the flat after the actual break in, nearly £100,000 in cash was in the living room along with a significant amount of Class A drugs. Why would someone break into a property and leave that big an amount of cash untouched?
“We are still trying to work out the answer to this question and that is why we think Piotr might have been involved in gangs or organised crime.
“For this reason, we are working alongside our colleagues from the Organised Crime Command to look into whether this murder was a targeted hit.”
DCI Cranwell and his team are also working to establish a timeline of events that led up to Piotr Woroneicki’s death.
Through CCTV, investigative work and speaking to witnesses, officers have established that:
- Piotr left his home address at 9.16pm on the evening of 22 November 2017.
- He was seen with persons known to him in New Covent Garden Market at 10.46pm.
He was last seen in the market at 11.33pm.
He was found by a member of the public at 5am on 23 November, some hours later, in Parma Crescent, which is approximately three miles from New Covent Garden Market.
DCI Cranwell said: “There are about five and a half hours that Piotr is unaccounted for where we don’t know who he may have met with or spoken to. It’s crucial we fill in these missing hours to help solve his murder and convict the person or persons responsible for his death.
“The night Piotr died there was torrential rain that some could describe as ‘biblical proportion’. I’m hoping that by mentioning this, it might jog somebody’s memory.
“Although I have said that we believe this murder is linked to organised crime, I want to assure anyone with any information that whatever you tell us will be treated with the upmost confidence. You will be helping to take a murderer off the streets and giving Piotr’s family and friends some closure in what has been a very tough period.”
Anyone with any information is asked to call the incident room number on 020 8721 4054.
A reward of up to £10,000 is being offered by the independent charity Crimestoppers for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Piotr Woroneicki’s murder. To give information and qualify, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through the online form at http://www.crimestoppers-uk.