There’s a peaceful aura about the lifeless faces lined up on the video, death having drained the tension from their cheeks, their eyes wide shut above thick mustaches and square jaws. But as the shot pans out, the horror of their end is revealed: The dead men’s heads have been roughly hacked away from their torsos, which the camera finds hanging upside down across the room on meat hooks, their blood draining away onto white floor tiles. “This is your responsibility for not respecting the deals you have made with us,” reads a handwritten note in Spanish by the decapitated heads.
The sickening footage was posted on YouTube after 12 headless bodies were dumped onto two ranches in Mexico’s southeastern Yucatan peninsula last week. Police identified the victims as local drug dealers, saying five were decapitated while alive but that the rest had been dismembered after first being strangled or beaten to death. A police sweep netted three suspects allegedly arrested while carrying bloodied axes and machetes. The suspects were alleged to have been members of the ultra-violent drug gang the Zetas, indicating the atrocities may have been the latest act of terror in the relentless turf war over Mexico’s billion-dollar smuggling routes. Police also claimed the killings may have had a ritual dimension, after searching the suspects’ houses and finding shrines to “The Holy Death,” a Grim Reaper figure venerated by many Mexican criminals.