Ivko Plecevic was a Yugoslavian tennis player. He represents the Davis Cup team as a player and then captain, several times national champion and with a presence in important tournaments such as Roland Garros or Wimbledon before the professional explosion. However, there was a criminal episodeof which he was an involuntary necessary participant, which catapulted him to the front page and kept it in force until the day of his death, in August 2021, at the age of 90. He owned the Porsche 911 S Targa They stole from his door. That’s how it started to be built the legend of the ghost of belgrade.
It happened in 1979, at the height of Marshal Tito’s regime. They were the frogs of the dictatorship, as their leader would die the following year, but the heavy hand still circulated on the streets of the former Yugoslavia. One morning in September, Plecevic left the house with a suitcase to load into his Porsche for a trip to Germany. But the car no.
“He left the car on the curb in front of the house. I could see it from the window, but I never thought I would really care. At that time, in the late 1970s, no one was stealing cars in Yugoslavia. Yes, sometimes it happened that they ‘borrowed’ them (sic), just to drive them and leave them, sometimes even where they had taken them ”, recalled the former tennis player in 2009.
Plecevic’s testimony was part of a documentary that reconstructs the madness lived for ten nights in Tito’s Belgrade. It was the foray of Vladimir Vasiljevic, better known as Vlada. A young man who managed to mock the strict Yugoslav police system. He stole a car but he wasn’t a thief; he committed a crime but was not a criminal; he drove masterfully but was not a driver. And the reasons that led him to such an act of courage were not clear. Neither he nor he has ever had a chance to tell her, because his mysterious death remains shrouded in suspicion.
The Phantom of Belgrade is born
“I was surprised because the porsche it was difficult to steal, break the opening and then connect the cables, “Plecevic said of the absence of his car. That 911 S Targa, registered in Germany, was a convertible of the second generation of the iconic Teutonic model, in existence since 57 years.was gifted with a 188 horsepower engine, which allowed it to easily exceed 200 kilometers per hour but, above all, they have a noticeable reaction on the way out.
That’s why it became a phenomenal ally of Vlada Vasiljevic in his adventures, which began the night before, Plecevic was surprised by the absence of the car. He was not one, but ten consecutive days in which Vlada walked defiantly. First he passed the police checkpoints at full speed to get attention. They didn’t take it.
In those days Tito was not in Yugoslavia but in Cuba, at the sixth summit of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, organized by his friend Fidel Castro. The police concern was stop the actions of the insurgent before the leader returned, as it was customary for each return of the marshal from a mission abroad to be adorned with a walk in the streets. And they couldn’t afford the risk that the white Porsche would show up in the middle of the dictator’s party to overturn the security system.
The first two nights the policemen were helpless because they had to chase a fireball with the Zastrava 1500 and 128 patrol cars they were equipped with. This Yugoslav brand was licensed by Fiat and replicated his models, only with his name. There were no equivalents.
He didn’t help the cops the ritual was the same every evening: the Porsche passed through Slavija Square, a huge roundabout in Belgrade with its many possible exits. It was there that the pilot relentlessly showed his skill. Word of mouth made people flock to the venue to watch the show. “For them it was a real show, as much as a football match. They went with cameras, binoculars, coffee and even food and popcorn… They were waiting for him, ”said Mladen Majstorovic, who worked as a taxi driver by day and went out to steal cars at night.
When regular agents ran out of options and Vlada Vasiljevic’s appearances were already an affront to the then 34-year-old regime, the Yugoslav police turned to an inspector whose nickname defined the conditions: Dusan Zivkovic was called Fangioas demonstrated behind the wheel of his Ford Grenade, a nearly five-meter car equipped with a 160 horsepower V6.
Zivkovic was a tough cop. With his Granada there was no criminal who escaped him. His appearance, however, was unsuccessful in the first acts, because the Phantom managed to escape him. The climax came when one night, Vlada called a radio to report the time she would pass through Slavija Square. He obeyed, knowing that an army of police and Fangio would be waiting for him. There was no way.
Therefore, without more resources, Fangio and the rest of the front page came up with a plan that couldn’t fail. Instead of the Granada, the policeman was behind the wheel of one of the two buses that served to surround it. Finally, on the tenth night, the adventures of the Belgrade Phantom seemed to be over when the Porsche crashed under one of the buses. A photographer, Ilija Bogdanovic, captured the incident. And he caught a vague, almost poetic image of the Ghost: his face peering from the shadows.
He was captured, but managed to escape custody in the midst of a crowd that idolized him so much that they helped him escape. He was the rebellious representation of many in the face of the oppression of the Tito regime. However, a couple of days later, 29-year-old Vlada Vasiljevic was handed over to the authorities.
He went to trial. He spent two years in prison. Ten days after his release, he was traveling around Belgrade in the passenger seat of a Lada driven by a friend. They were locked up by two trucks driven by policemen. They collided. The car was destroyed. The driver died. Vlada Vasiljevic was hospitalized. On her second night in the hospital, her death was reported..
There was not a single record of that time in the hospital. No medical history or document was found that gave it an official appearance, serious, that would have thrown away the suspicions about his death. The police didn’t like that boy, perhaps with a revolutionary desire, because he wanted to impress a woman or simply because he thought he was going down in history, I had ridiculed them. And before in Yugoslavia, now in Serbia, there is still talk that the Talion law was applied to the Phantom of Belgrade.
In this case, Dusan Zivkovic left a disturbing phrase in the film The Phantom of Belgrade, from 2009, which mixed testimonies with the reconstruction of those nights. “The Ghost was popular, he won. But what is alive is Fangio“.