Russia’s most notorious serial killer, Mikhail “the werewolf” Popkov, has recently confessed to an additional two killings bringing his suspected victim count to 83. When asked why he confessed and lead police to the crime scenes he answered that he wanted a holiday away from prison. It is believed Popkov has not fully confessed to the true amount of his victims in order to benefit his position. Authorities believe that he could be responsible for up to 200+ murders in the cities of Angarsk, Vladivostok and Irkutsk and do not believe that he has been fabricating for fame.
Although not much is known of his early life, media outlets reported that Popkov was abused by his alcoholic mother as a child and speculated this to be the motive behind his crimes which took place between 1992 - 2010. Other articles pertaining to the Angarsk maniac state that he began killing when he learned of his wife’s adulterous affair. However, in his own words, Mikhail Popkov said that his reign of terror began after innocently offering a woman a ride one night while he was in uniform. He claimed that he suddenly got the urge to kill her while she was in his vehicle and did so, getting away with the murder easier than he thought he would. So easy had it all been that he did it again and again under the noses of both the police and his own family, who never suspected a thing and were baffled and in denial that their patriarch could commit such offenses even after he was convicted of 22 murders in court.
Mikhail Popkov was a model husband and father. He was charming and well-liked. His colleagues in the police force and at the oil and chemical plant where he worked after resigning from his position as an officer in 1998 described him as morally upstanding, funny and the life of the party. Little did they know that their charismatic co-worker had been cruising around outside of bars in his Larda 4x4 picking up intoxicated women between the age of 16 – 40 whom he would drag into the woods to rape, torture and kill. He earned himself the name “the werewolf” as he would leave his victims in severely mutilated states, stabbing some of them up to 170 times. One tabloid reported that he had even ripped one of the women’s hearts out of her chest, although it is unknown if this was a sensationalised headline or fact.
Popkov had access to all types of murder weapons which he would select from the evidence room at the police station. He utilized knives, hammers and ropes that had been used in other crimes and used them on his victims before cleaning them of his fingerprints and discarding the murder weapons. He reportedly engaged in sexual acts with the bodies after he murdered his victims. Popkov saw the women as immoral and said it was his mission to cleanse the streets of immoral women. He would offer his victims drinks at the bars he found them at and if they accepted, he would offer them a ride. Most of the women accepted, after all he was an officer of the law and they likely trusted that he was a safe bet and that they would make it home unharmed. Only three women who rejected his offer ever did make it home, the scores of others were driven into the woods, dragged out of the vehicle and were beaten, stabbed repeatedly, strangled, struck with blunt objects and sexually assaulted.
After killing the women, he would return home to his family as if nothing happened. Popkov would later admit that he lived a double life. He was so good at it that his own daughter refused to believe that he was the Angarsk maniac and questioned if he was the killer, why he wasn’t covered in blood when he came home and why he didn’t have scratches or signs of a victim attacking in self-defence on his body?
The police were also baffled. They had no leads on a suspect and the profile they had created did not help in identifying the killer.
Mikhail Popkov did not completely escape suspicion, however, as one of his victims survived his attack and lived to tell the tale. She was picked up by the killer, driven to the woods, had her head slammed against a tree and fell to the ground. She awoke the next day in the hospital and had somehow survived the blow to the head and laying outside naked all night exposed to the elements before being discovered and taken to the hospital. She visually identified Mikhail Popkov as her attacker, but the police did not believe the teenager. Popkov’s wife, Elena Popkova, who also worked for the police department, provided an alibi and the killer continued to walk free, going on to kill many more women.
It was easy for Mikhail Popkov to get away with the murders during a time when forensic technology was in its infancy, but the cold-hearted killer would eventually be caught in 2012 after around 3,500 members of the police department were DNA tested. Popkov’s DNA was linked to the scenes of his crimes, his vehicle and the tire tracks from his Larda 4x4, which had been found next to many of his victims’ bodies and cemented him as a suspect. Also, despite being perceived as a faithful family man he had also contracted the same STD as one of his victims.
He was arrested in June 2012.
Popkov cooperated with the police, leading them to crime scenes and explaining in detail what he had done to each victim. He showed no remorse and smiled in interviews, much to the anger of the Russian public who cried out for the death penalty to be reinstated. The killer did not show any emotion when being sentenced to life in prison without the chance of release and only became upset when he was informed he would be stripped of his police rank and thus his wife would no longer be able to claim his monthly retirement fund.
Mikhail Popkov continues to serve out his sentence. Police are unsure how many murders he will eventually confess to but they believe it to be well above 200.