The driver for a slain activist priest described Thursday how three secret police agents gagged him at gunpoint, clubbed the priest "like a sack full of flour" and tossed the cleric's unconscious body into the trunk of a car.
Waldemar Chrostowski, 42, told a court in Torun how he and Father Jerzy Popieluszko, an outspoken supporter of the outlawed Solidarity union, were kidnaped from their Volkswagen on the moonlit night of the killing last Oct. 19.
Chrostowski escaped by jumping from the kidnapers' car, then reported the crime to authorities only hours after the abduction. The priest's body was retrieved from a reservoir 11 days later.
Police Capt. Grzegorz Piotrowski and Lts. Waldemar Chmielewski and Leszek Pekala are charged with kidnaping and murdering Popieluszko. Secret police Col. Adam Pietruszka is accused of complicity.
The four face sentences ranging from eight years to death by hanging.
Chrostowski said he and the priest were returning from the northern town of Bydgoszcz where the cleric had been preaching when they were approached from behind by a car with its bright lights on.
"Popieluszko told me to slow down, and the car overtook us and forced me to stop," Chrostowski said. "The next thing I noticed was a red light being pushed through the window and a voice saying: 'You've been speeding. The car keys please.'
"I was told to put out my hands, and I felt handcuffs clicking on them, then I was told, 'Open your mouth,' and a piece of cloth was stuffed in. I heard a voice saying, 'Hold your gun. Don't let him move.' I realized then that I was dealing with bandits," Chrostowski said.
The driver said Popieluszko was ordered out of the car.
"I heard Popieluszko saying, 'Gentlemen, what do you think you are doing?'
"Then I heard a noise like a sack full of flour being hit with a club and I realized they were beating him senseless. I heard his body being dumped in the trunk of their car," he said.
Piotrowski, who during earlier testimony admitted beating the priest, sat in the court with a blank expression on his face but fidgeted constantly as Chrostowski testified.
Pekala appeared exhausted by the proceedings and frequently fell asleep during testimony.
Chrostowski said he was ordered into the kidnapers' car and felt the barrel of a revolver being pushed against the back of his head.
"I thought these were the last moments of my life," he said. "But I wanted to escape and I waited for a chance."
He said the kidnapers then drove away with both him and the priest inside the car. "I waited until I saw another car traveling behind and hoped the occupants might witness what was happening.
"Then I took my chance and grabbed the door handle with my little finger. I pushed the door open with my leg and fell out. I let the impact roll me several times but it badly bruised my body and broke my ankle," he said.
Chrostowski said the car behind did not stop, but he made his way to a workers' hostel nearby and an ambulance was called. He said that before taking him to a hospital for treatment, the ambulance crew let him call the home of a priest in Torun and police were telephoned.