A court in Siberia has convicted a former police officer of raping and killing a further 56 women, making him Russia’s worst serial killer in the last century.
Mikhail Popkov, 54, terrorized his home city of Angarsk in the Irkutsk region for nearly two decades, luring women into his car late at night and then assaulting them with tools such as axes and shovels.
In 2015, he was sentenced to life for 22 murders. All murders were committed between 1992 and 2010.
Aleksandr Shkinev, a regional prosecutor, said: “There is no doubt that Popkov committed these murders. He clearly showed the places where the bodies were buried, and, by an earring, tattoo or some other feature, described the murders and victims in detail.”
Investigators finally linked Popkov to the crimes in 2012 using DNA evidence and descriptions of his car.
Nicknamed the “Angarsk maniac” by the Russian media and interviewed on national television, Popkov dumped the bodies on roadsides or in woods near the eastern Siberian city. When bodies were discovered, he sometimes returned to the scene of the crime as a police officer.
Shkinev said 14 of the victims remained unidentified.
In court Popkov had called himself a “cleaner” and claimed he was punishing the women for immoral behaviour. In a 2015 interview, he told the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda: “They left their husbands and children at home and went out [drinking] as if for the last time. Of course nobody is without sin. But one must not hurt one’s dearest.”
Shkinev said in court that medical experts had determined the motive for the killing was “homicidal mania, an irresistible urge to kill”.
Popkov will be sent to the “black dolphin”, a high-security prison on the remote border with Kazakhstan which holds Russia’s most brutal criminals. Russia introduced a moratorium on the death penalty in 1996.
Popkov also had his police ranking, junior lieutenant, and state pension, about £285 a month, removed. He said to be “disappointed” by the loss of the pension.
The conviction appeared to confirm earlier claims by Popkov that he had committed 84 murders, but three were excluded from the case for lack of evidence.
The Soviet-era serial killer Andrei Chikatilo was executed in 1994 after confessing to 56 killings. Alexander Pichushkin, often called the “chessboard killer”, is serving a life sentence for 48 murders in a park in south-west Moscow.