Peru arrests 'human fat killers'


A gang in the remote Peruvian jungle has been killing people for their fat for use in cosmetics, police have said.

The gang allegedly drained the fat from their victims' corpses and offered it on the black market for use in cosmetics.

Colonel Jorge Mejia, chief of Peru's anti-kidnapping police, said yesterday three suspects have confessed to killing five people for their fat. He said the suspects, two of whom were arrested carrying bottles of liquid fat, told police it was worth $15,000 a litre.

Col Mejia said the suspects told police the fat was sold to intermediaries in the capital Lima. While police suspect the fat was sold to cosmetic companies in Europe, he could not confirm any sales.

Medical experts expressed doubt about an international black market for human fat, though it does have cosmetic applications. Yale University dermatology professor Dr Lisa Donofrio speculated that a small market may exist for "human fat extracts" to keep skin supple, though scientifically such treatments are "pure baloney."

At a news conference, police showed reporters two bottles of fat recovered from the suspects and a photo of the rotting head of a 27-year-old male victim. Suspect Elmer Segundo Castillejos (29), led police to the head, recovered in a coca-growing valley last month, Col Mejia said.

Col Mejia said Castillejos confessed that the gang would cut off its victims' heads, arms and legs, remove the organs, then suspend the torsos from hooks above candles that warmed the flesh as the fat dripped into tubs below.

Six members of the gang remain at large, Col Mejia said, adding that in addition to the five killings the suspects confessed to, the gang may be involved in dozens more. Police believe the band's fugitive leader, Hilario Cudena (56), has been killing to extract fat from victims for more than three decades.

At least 60 people are listed as missing in Huanuco province, where the gang allegedly operated, this year alone.

Police named the band the "Pishtacos" after a Peruvian myth dating to pre-Columbian times of men who killed to extract human fat, quartering their victims with machetes.