At the end of April, a news story was widely reported
involving a jilted Polish woman, Anna Maćkowiak, who got revenge on her ex-boyfriend by pulling out all his teeth. Seems she was a dentist, and he made the mistake of showing up at her practice complaining of toothache. So she sedated him, and set to work. He woke up later with no toothache, and no teeth.
This got posted over at Weird Universe (though not by me), but it didn't trigger any hoax alarms in my head. But it should have. MSNBC reporter Erin Tennant was suspicious, did some investigating, and discovered it was all a hoax
. Or rather, it seems to have been a case of satire mistaken as news. And it was that bastion of great journalism, the Daily Mail, that first published the story in English. More details from MSNBC:
when msnbc.com contacted police in Wroclaw, Poland, about the supposed criminal case, a spokesman said they had no record of such an incident.
"Lower Silesia Police Department has not been notified about such an event and is not investigating such a case," Pawel Petrykowski of the Provincial Police Headquarters in Wroclaw said in an email that was translated into English.
A legal adviser for Poland’s Chamber of Physicians and Dentists, which handles disciplinary matters, said the organization is not investigating and has never investigated any such case, and added that there is no dental practitioner named Anna Maćkowiak listed in Poland’s central register of dentists.
"No information about this kind of misconduct has been provided to the Supreme Chamber," the legal advisor, Marek Szewczyński, said in an email. "The Supreme Chamber is also not aware of any actions of this kind being taken by the Regional Chamber of Physicians and Dentists in Wroclaw, which would be the competent authority in case of a possible professional misconduct committed by a dental practitioner from Wroclaw."
Most online news outlets in Poland left the story alone. Polish television news channel TVN4 published an article mocking foreign media's coverage of the story, which it speculates began as a prank. "It appears that the article, written as a joke, began life on the Internet and has little to do with any truth," the translated article reads.
All the news reports about Maćkowiak published on news websites in the U.S. and elsewhere, such as Australia’s Herald Sun or New Zealand Herald, can be traced back to an article published in the online edition of Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.
The article, which has been shared on Facebook more than 75,000 times since it was published on April 27, appears under the byline of staff reporter Simon Tomlinson.
But Tomlinson said he does not know where the story came from and distanced himself from it when questioned about its origins.
"I've drawn a bit of a blank," he said in an email. "The (Daily) Mail Foreign Service, which did the piece for the paper, is really just an umbrella term for copy put together from agencies. My news desk isn’t sure where exactly it came from."