In February 1951, the region between Sedlčany and Milevsk was shaken by the case of the beaten chairman of the local national committee in the small village of Koubalova Lhota. The subsequent investigation was conducted entirely under the direction of the communist State Security, which identified three local peasants as the murderers. All were soon hanged. In 2020, the Ministry of Justice apologized for judicial murder. However, the case is much more complicated.
On the narrow road from Koubalova Lhota to Milesov, about three-quarters of a kilometer beyond the village, there is an inconspicuous marble slab with an engraved faded script and a black-and-white portrait photo in an oval frame on the hillside on the right. The stone monument of Vladimír Mandík is covered in snow these days. In summer, it is almost entirely covered by lush linden shoots. From the beginning of the 1950s, only sparse bushes grew here between the plowed fields. And it was from behind them, according to the secret police, that the killer attacked.
Vladimír Mandík, a 58-year-old miner, communist and chairman of the Local National Committee in Koubalova Lhota, died under a roadside embankment just before midnight on February 14, 1951, after a brutal ambush. He was returning from the afternoon shift from the shaft in Krásná Hora nad Vltavou. The dead body with a bloody head was discovered at a quarter past ten in the morning by the district secretary Antonín Mladý. The news immediately spread around the region.
However, the terrifying case is still connected with the death of three other people. The tombstones in the cemetery in nearby Lašovice bear the names of Václav Junek, Alois Lacina and Karel Máša. The day and place of death is the same for all of them, March 16, 1951, the execution ground of the Pankrák prison in Prague.
According to the investigation, the brutal killer was the local farmer Junek, who killed Mandík with three blows to the head with a stick. Neighbors Lacina and Máša were supposed to help with the preparations and cover his back. But was that really the case?
Let’s take a look at the investigative files of the period stored in the Archive of the Security Forces. It can be read from them that the investigation into the murder of a communist functionary, which was taken over by the State Security (StB), was highly suspicious, non-standard, full of errors or suppressed evidence. And it was supposed to serve above all for the totalitarian regime to get rid of three inconvenient peasants who resisted collectivization and entry into the unified agricultural cooperative (JZD).
He jumped out of the bushes and hit him with a stick
The investigators at the time described the moment of the murder as follows: “After a short wait in the bushes, Junek noticed that Vladimír Mandík was coming from Milesov. He prepared for the attack and waited for him to pass by, after which he jumped up and hit him in the right temple with a sharp blow from behind with a stick. After the first in the morning, Mandík took several staggering steps forward, as if he wanted to run, and started calling for help,” they wrote in the report.
“At this moment Junek sprang forward again and struck Mandík across the hand with which he was trying to cover his head. But this blow traveled down the hand and struck him again on the head, so that he fell on his left side beside the road and began to grunt. When he saw Junek , that he still showed signs of life, hit him in the head a third time in a bestial manner, so that he shattered the left side of his skull and death occurred immediately,” the StB investigators added.
Vladimír Mandík and his predecessor as chairman of the local national committee (MNV), also a communist, Václav Junek, had long-standing disputes between them. In the turbulent times after the war and also after the communist coup of 1948, they were vying for power in the village, they were doing things on their own, they were suing each other before the superior authorities. Neighborly animosity was widely known, which led to Junek, a forty-four-year-old father of six, and another communist functionary of the village, Alois Lacina, ending up in custody the same day. A third peasant from Koubalova Lhota, Karel Máša, followed them a few days later.
“All three of them saw in the person of Vladimír Mandík the end of their marauding raids. When they found that they could not remove him from the party and from his position in any achievable way, they decided after a consultation on the most terrible act, to eliminate one of their best comrades with a brutal and brutal murder,” she wrote down her ideas about the motives of the State Security murder.
Photo: Archive of the security forces
“After the removal of Mandík, they wanted to completely control the village, prevent the construction of the JZD, and thereby make it impossible for the citizens of Koubalova Lhota to participate in the happy new socialist life to which the people’s democratic establishment leads,” reads the extensive criminal file full of ideological chatter.
“You judge the innocent, I didn’t kill anyone. You are the murderers!”
The commanders of the secret police put pressure on the inexperienced investigators (it was usually their first murder case), they want to close the sensitive case as quickly as possible. In the course of harrowing interrogations, all three accused eventually confessed, only to soon withdraw the statement. This is repeated several times. Junek in particular resists. But their fate is already decided anyway. The all-powerful Communist Party led by Klement Gottwald made the decision. Justice in spite of.
It only takes a few days and the murder case is closed. After all, the investigators were given only a week to do so by the StB commanders. Irregularities and evidence that spoke in favor of the accused are kept silent and do not make it to court at all. For example, fresh footprints that led from the crime scene in the opposite direction than the lawsuit later stated. Neither the finding of a shell casing and bloodstains near the murdered man (even during the retrial in the 1960s, information appears that Mandík had a gunshot wound in the skull behind the ear) or the testimony of a witness who allegedly heard a shot on the fateful night, are not taken into account. And finally, not even the statements of the wives of the three peasants, which give them a partial alibi.
The task is clear. Whether the three landowners from Koubalova Lhota are guilty or not, they must be punished in an exemplary manner and their tragic fate used for propaganda purposes. “On this example, we must always be aware of the necessity of Bolshevik vigilance and vigilance, especially in the countryside at a time of increasing class struggle in the transition of the countryside to socialism,” proclaim the communist authorities. They label small farmers as village rich people who rip off the poor, as rural leeches, slanderers, traitors to the country.
“In his homestead, he lives like a money-hungry groundhog who doesn’t feel the need for JZD, because the current way of life suits him fully,” characterizes StB Aloise Lacina. “He is an inveterate enemy of the people’s democratic regime,” evaluates Karla Máša.
The defendants are tried in the hall of the falconry in Milevsk for two days – March 8 and 9, 1951. The prosecutor, who wears a swaza shirt, is the twenty-two-year-old Dr. Matusínská. It goes fast. Court of Appeal follows on March 14, 1951. Lasts half an hour. Maša and Lacina have to be supported by the guard, they stare resignedly at the ground, they resemble human wreckage. They are broken. They do not contradict. “You judge the innocent, I didn’t kill anyone and you know it. You are the murderers!” Václav Junek shouts desperately.
Ortel is relentless. Death penalty by hanging, forfeiture of property. “The sentence will be carried out on March 16 at 5 o’clock in the morning in the order of Máša, Lacina, Junek,” says the record from the Pankrák prison laconically. Death occurs for all three peasants after about ten minutes of suffocation, as the height of the fall of the body is only thirty centimeters.
In 1965, the executed were acquitted of the charges
12 years have passed and the case is again being dealt with by the court at the behest of the survivors. And terrifying facts emerge. Although not unusual in the context of the 1950s.
“In the middle of 1950, I was appointed commander of the investigation department without any experience. I had no experience in managing the case of Comrade Mandík’s murder. Today, after the passage of time, I see that there were major flaws in the investigation of the case,” the chief investigator of the case, Oldřich Vejvoda, admits during the retrial in 1963, at that time the commander of the investigative department of the KV-StB in České Budějovice.
And he continues: “From the beginning of the investigation, all the accused denied that they participated in the murder of Comrade Mandík. Then the regional commander ordered that the investigation be carried out day and night. I admit that the investigators used physical violence during the investigation, the accused could have received during the investigation some field. I don’t remember using physical violence against the accused,” Vejvoda dictates in the protocol. He’s obviously lying.
His colleague Vojtěch Rybák will explain what “some kind of field” means in Estebák practice. “Václav Junek consistently denied any guilt, and as a result, inhumane and cruel torture took place. The investigators beat him with a ‘beaten vein’, because he consistently denied and confessed only under physical violence. I personally saw such beating several times. They also beat Junek with other objects , for example with a reed, perhaps with a hose and a hand. He had to lie down on a table and was beaten until he confessed. As soon as the beating ended, Junek immediately retracted the ‘confession,'” Rybák describes, mentioning Vejvoda and other colleagues with the fact that that everything was done with the knowledge of their commanders.
Photo: Archive of the security forces
As a result, in 1965 the court issues an acquittal. Apart from forced confessions, the original instance did not have any other direct evidence or more serious indirect evidence at its disposal. In addition, the investigators committed many serious mistakes, and in the course of the investigation, “illegal methods such as continuous interrogations day and night, physical violence and psychological coercion were used against the defendants.”
“It cannot be considered proven that the defendants committed the murder, and therefore they had to be fully acquitted,” the judgment reads.
Post-1989 investigation and state apology
After November 1989, the Office of Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes (ÚDV) dealt with the case. And among other things, he worked with a version that presented the murder of Vladimír Mandík in a completely different light. Although the chairman of the MNV was a communist, he lived in the Soviet Union for a long time before he married into the farm in Koubalov Lhota. And he did not keep silent about the conditions there associated with forced collectivization.
“The idea is that Mr. Mandík was actually shot. And the wounds on the head were only intended to cover that shot. The investigative version is that he could have been removed on the order of KSČ officials, because we found out that he was Mandík – as opposed to how was presented in the criminal file of the time – on the contrary, strongly against the collectivization of the village,” Kristýna Řebíčková from the ÚDV explained in the Czech Television documentary “Top Secret Murders” in 2010. However, the real killers could not be found.
In June 2020, the Ministry of Justice publicly apologized for the fact that the state hanged the innocent Václav Junek, Alois Lacina and Karel Máša in 1951. It called the execution of the death penalty a judicial murder.
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