One Of The World’s Most Prolific Serial Killers Convicted Of Another 56 Murders
Former Russian policeman Mikhail Popkov targeted women outside clubs by offering them safe rides home at night.
Mikhail Popkov looks through bars during a court session in Irkutsk, Russia, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 [Julia Pykhalova, Komsomolskaya Pravda via AP]
IRKUTSK, RUSSIA — The former Siberian police officer who was already in prison for life after killing 22 women out of revenge, because he suspected his wife was having an affair, has now been found guilty of another 56 deaths, making him the third most prolific convicted serial killer in history.
Regional prosecutor Aleksandr Shkinev noted there is “no doubt” Mikhail Popkov, 54, brutally murdered all 78 people. “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,” he said.
Nicknamed “Werewolf,” Popkov’s murder spree stretched between 1992 and 2010. The serial killer used his position as an officer in his hometown of Angarsk — a city over 2,500 miles east of Moscow — to lure his unsuspecting victims, thought to be between the ages of 17 and 38, from outside clubs and other establishments at night by offering them rides home in his police cruiser.
Instead, he would take the women to a secluded location to rape and then kill them with various weapons, including screwdrivers, knives, and axes. He would dump their dismembered and naked bodies in ditches or the forest.
Despite years of tracking down leads and trying to solve the baffling murders, the case went cold in 2000, even though authorities always suspected a police official was somehow involved. The investigation was reopened in 2012, and Popkov was finally connected to the crimes when 3,500 police officers who had worked in the Irkutsk region had to submit their DNA for testing. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2015 for what was then thought to be 22 murders.
“I could not anticipate the examination of DNA,” Popkov said. “I was born in another century. Now there are such modern technologies, methods, but not earlier. If we have not got to that level of genetic examination, then ... I would not be sitting in front of you.”
The Siberian Times reported Popkov’s killing spree began after he wrongly believed his wife was cheating on him. “I just had some reasons to suspect her,” claimed Popkov. “I’m not looking for excuses, but this was the impetus for my future” as a serial killer who was a “cleaner” of the streets — intent on getting rid of the city’s “prostitutes.”
“They left their husbands and children at home and went out [drinking] as if for the last time,” he complained. “Of course, nobody is without sin. But one must not hurt one’s dearest.”
Popkov’s wife, Elena, 53; and daughter, 31-year-old Ekaterina, at first refused to believe the man they loved could be responsible for such savage crimes.
“I do not believe any of this. I always felt myself as ‘daddy’s girl,’” said Ekaterina following Popkov’s arrest. “For 25 years we were together, hand in hand. We walked, rode bikes, went to the shops, and he met me from school. We both collect model cars, so we have the same hobby. I wanted to be a criminologist, so I read a book with tips of how investigators catch serial killers and there were also basic classifications [about murderers]. Daddy doesn't fit any of these classifications — he doesn't look like some maniac.”
However, after Popkov’s first trial, both mother and daughter could no longer deny the terrible truth and reportedly moved to begin new lives somewhere else.
“I admit my guilt in full,” Popkov told a judge during one court appearance. “I was guided by my inner convictions.”
Popkov will now be incarcerated for a second life term at a high-security prison known as “Black Dolphin” that’s reserved for his country’s most dangerous criminals.