A gang in the remote Peruvian jungle has been killing people for their fat, the police said Thursday, accusing the gang’s members of draining fat from bodies and selling it on the black market for use in cosmetics.
Three suspects have confessed to killing five people for their fat, said Col. Jorge Mejía, chief of Peru’s anti-kidnapping police. He said the suspects, two of whom were arrested carrying bottles of liquid fat, told the police it was worth $60,000 a gallon.
Colonel Mejía said the suspects had told the police that the fat had been sold to intermediaries in Lima, the capital. While police officials suspect that the fat was sold to cosmetic companies in Europe, he said he could not confirm any sales.
Several medical experts acknowledged that fat had cosmetic uses, but they also said they doubted that there was an international black market for human fat. Dr. Lisa M. Donofrio, a Yale University dermatology professor, speculated that a small market might exist for “human fat extracts” to keep skin supple, though she added that scientists considered such treatments “pure baloney.”
Colonel Mejía said Mr. Castillejos [Elmer Segundo Castillejos, one of the suspects] had told officers that the gang would cut off its victims’ heads, arms and legs, remove the organs, and 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, he said, adding that in addition to the five killings to which the suspects had confessed, the gang might have been involved in dozens of others. Mr. Castillejos told the police that the band’s fugitive leader, Hilario Cudena, had been killing people to extract fat for more than three decades.
At least 60 people are listed as missing this year in Huanuco Province, where the gang is believed to have operated. The province is also home to drug-trafficking leftist rebels.