by Rade STANIC
Trio: Some members of the Police showed desire to suppress the publication of the story even after the overthrow of Milosevic's regime. Early this year Vitomirovic offered the story to a weekly published in Belgrade. The article was not published, but the Police found out about it.
"On January 16, I received a phone call from a man who introduced himself as Cankovic from the Ministry of Internal Affairs [Police]. We met in hotel Srbija in Zajecar. Three men showed up wearing fatigues. They came in a Rover. They said that they had come from Bujanovac and that they were working there. One of them asked me about my motives for writing the article, whether I wanted to incriminate Slobodan Milosevic. I said that I was convinced that Slobodan Milosevic was a war criminal," says Vitomirovic. Vitomirovic, besides working as a journalist, worked for thirty years for the Polcie and State Security Service. He also told us that he was soon supposed to start working "for Mihajlovic, in the appeals and submissions department". During the meeting in Zajecar he tried to figure out whom the three interlocutors were representing. They first said that they were talking on behalf of "the new authorities", then they talked about Legija, commander of the State Security Service Special Forces Unit, and finally claimed that they were there on behalf of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia. "However, they said that neither Minister of Internal Affairs Dusan Mihajlovic nor Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic knew about their mission. They told me that there was no need to burden them with that," says Vitomirovic.
"Then one of them started with threats. He knew that I had grandkids, two sons... I told him that I was not afraid. I asked why some boss or agent hadn't come. They said: 'Because you're a soft negotiator'," adds Vitomirovic.
He informed the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs about the meeting and "they probably did something, because no one bothered me afterwards". Thus, the article finally appeared in Timocka Krimi-Revija.
Under water: Vitomirovic found out about the freezer truck incident immediately, but had trouble reconstructing it ('everyone was afraid"). He got the true story from Zivadin Djordjevic, a diver from Kladovo, who participated in the pulling of the truck out from the Danube. Djordjevic regularly assists the Police in locating and retrieving drowning victims and objects from the Danube. Thus, on April 6 he responded to the Police call and went to check what the fishermen from Tekija found some 30 kilometers from Kladovo. When he dived in, he established that the submerged object was "a Mercedes truck, a freezer truck. It did not have the windshield, the key was in the ignition and the truck was in neutral. A big stone was placed on the accelerator pedal, and there were no victims in or around the truck." In order to pull out the truck, they used two winches, which ultimately failed but drew attention of the passers by. Besides the fishermen, there were people from the cars, because the traffic was blocked on the road. Then, according to Djordjevic, they decided that they should first unload the freight.
"The doors were secured twice, with a lock and a chain and bolt. We cut the chain. The moment we opened the door, corpses started sliding towards us. Arms, heads, the shock was terrible. Just imagine seeking a small child, a woman... The corpses were already bloated, they had started to decompose, but were still pretty well preserved. There were naked persons, some were dressed or semi-dressed. Someone wrote that women were dressed in traditional Muslim clothing, but I'm not sure. It could have been a tracksuit, which would look similar to the traditional Muslim clothing. It is hard to tell how many bodies were there, because it was a pile of corpses lying on top of one another. I believe that there were about 30 of them," says Djordjevic. He responds that he did not notice any evidence of a massacre, bullet wounds, "because that was difficult to see, as the skin had already lost its color".
Investigation: "That was horrible. The fat was floating around, some yellowish liquid, blood or something. The stench was bad. We somehow pushed those arms, heads, and legs back inside and closed the door." One of the witnesses is a farmer living in a house some ten meters from the place where the freezer truck was pulled out of the river. "I saw corpses. No one told me not to talk about that. There's nothing to say about that, get lost," he angrily refused to talk, threatening yours truly with clumps of earth. The truck was pulled out of the Danube the following day. From that moment on Djordjevic, as he says, had nothing to do with either the truck or the corpses. Those who were supposed to react had already come to the riverbank: the head of the local police in Kladovo Vukasin Sperlic, investigative magistrate Tomislav Milojkovic, and deputy public prosecutor Mirko Petkovic. Sperlic saw Reporter's journalist, said that he had read about the case in the newspapers, that he had "no authorization to give statements for the media" and that consequently he could not give such authorizations to either Milan Stevanovic, the chief of the crime department in the local police, or Rajkovic, whose photographs of corpses, according to Vitomirovic's article, ended up in the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Milojkovic, also the president of the court in Kladovo, said for Reporter that he "stopped every work" as soon as he saw the corpses since "as a judge of a lower court [he] had the obligation to secure the location and inform an investigative magistrate of a higher court, who would be in charge of continuing the investigation." "Through the local police in Kladovo we insisted on informing Negotin, and we did that. That is the end of the job of the investigative magistrate of the municipal court in Kladovo," says Milojkovic. At the time Krstimir Majstorovic, district public prosecutor, now retired, and investigative magistrate Milorad Momcilovic were in charge in Negotin. By chance, Miroslav Srzendic, the new district prosecutor, was the first person informed about the case in Negotin. He was informed about the corpses at about 7pm by Stevanovic. He requested from him to secure the location, and somewhat later the district prosecutor was also informed.
Judges: "What happened later? The next morning I went to work, met the district prosecutor and investigative magistrate and was told that nothing would be done in this case, that the whole case was a state secret, that I should forget about everything, that nothing had happened." Knowing his colleague as "a rather cautious person", Srzentic "assumes" that Majstorovic was ordered from above to lot go off the case. However, Majstorovic refused to say anything about the event, adding that the current deputy district prosecutor Vojislav Vladovic was on duty that day and consequently in charge of the case. Vladovic denied any link with the case, which was confirmed by Srzendic.
Momcilovic was the most agitated person Reporter talked to. "I have murders, rapes, anything you want. Million things! I'll give you information on anything you want, just don't ask me about that!" almost desperately Momcilovic reacted to the question who ordered that the investigation be stopped. And that would be the end of the story if it weren't for Vitomirovic's article. The article claims that the chief of police in Bor, Colonel Caslav Golubovic, was informed about everything and that he in turn informed the top leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia, specifically General-Colonel Vlastimir Djordjevic, deputy minister. "Soon strict orders 'from above' came to suppress all information about the case and classify it as a state secret," claims Vitomirovic in his article. Later he quoted Momcilovic. According to the article, Momcilovic, was told by Stevanovic that "nothing had happened and that all the information about this should be suppressed". Milosevic is now keeping quiet. Just like Kladovo, both the opposition and former authorities, kept quiet for two years. Zika I., a mathematics professor in Kladovo, says that the main topic of discussion in the town is whether Djordjevic should have told about what he had seen and adds that "everyone should be kept responsible for his deeds and the truth should be told". His friend is not sure how to answer to the question about general opinion regarding the case. Djordjevic says that people in Kladovo do not like being nosy. "That's the way they are".
Data: It is not difficult to conclude that the truck was deliberately pushed in the Danube and there is a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing at the former regime. It is difficult to imagine that the freezer truck could at wartime pass a single mile without being checked by the Army or the Police, and the secret where the truck and corpses are should be known by the state authorities. Vitomirovic claims in his article that on April 7 the truck was destroyed in the nearby village of Petrovo Selo, used by the special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Corpses were loaded onto a freezer truck with Belgrade number plates and Vitomirovic does not discuss their further fate, nor any evidence backing up these claims. It is certain that the freezer truck floated to Tekija and that it was not pushed from a large height into the river, but most likely driven from a low elevation into the Danube with the assistance of the stone placed on the accelerator pedal. Djordjevic points out that the truck was not damaged anywhere, and that even the headlights were undanaged.
How and where the victims perished can be guessed from several facts. The fact that the truck was found during the first two weeks of the war, that it was labeled Eksport-import Pec [a town in Kosovo], that the Police advised witnesses and participants in the pulling out of the truck to talk about perished Kurds, and Vitomirovic's claim in the article that one of the policemen he met in hotel Srbija said that what Vitomirovic was doing "was not good for the Serb nation as it will be condemned as genocidal by the world," and that he would "again kill those who were in the truck".
The impression of yours truly is that no one said everything he knows and that everyone hid something. We managed to hear a few things off-record, without naming the names. That the corpses may have had bullet wounds, that that was not the only truck that left Kosovo, got off the highway [Belgrade-Nis] by Paracin and continued towards Smederevo and Belgrade, where the corpses disappeared. They were not buried. Of course, all claims should not be taken at face value as they are not backed up by any evidence. For now.