A university security chief says he murdered at least 50 people for the school’s director, who paid him $200 each for bodies to supply the medical school, according to news reports Thursday.
Fourteen guards at the Free University of Barranquilla, including security chief Pedro Viloria, have been arrested.
Accustomed as the nation is to decades of guerrilla war, drug war, political assassination and right-wing death squads, reports about the murder-for-medicine ring this week have shocked Colombia.
“There is nothing in the history of the country nor in the most repugnant of crimes to equal the discoveries at the Free University,” said an editorial Thursday in Bogota’s El Espectador newspaper.
Pedro Viloria attempted suicide by swallowing insecticide after police found 11 bodies and the remains of 12 more in the university morgue on Sunday.
The Barranquilla newspaper El Heraldo quoted Viloria as saying from his hospital bed:
“I have clubbed some 50 people, but I received orders from the director of the university. I’m not the only guilty party.”
University director Jose Ramon Navarro issued a statement Monday insisting that all cadavers used by the medical faculty were legally purchased at the Barranquilla Legal Medical Institute.
The medical institute denied that claim. Health Ministry official Luis Eduardo Gomez said that none of the bodies had been purchased legally for use in science.
The Free University remained closed as police looked for more bodies.
Most of the victims at the morgue have been identified as poor people who earned their living collecting trash from the streets of Barranquilla, a Caribbean city of 1 million residents.
Police learned about the murders from street scavenger Oscar Hernandez, who was lured to the university Saturday night by security guards. He was beaten and placed in a tub of formaldehyde, but escaped early Sunday morning, Hernandez told Bogota’s El Tiempo newspaper.