In the frozen wastelands of Siberia, a Russian serial killer named Mikhail Popkov raped and murdered nearly 30 women in a horrific killing spree. For six bloody years in Angarsk — 1994 to 2000 — Popkov, a former police officer in the Russian Federation, enacted a one-man rampage reminiscent of England’s infamous Jack the Ripper.
The so-called “Werewolf of Siberia” would prey upon intoxicated women leaving bars, concerts or parties using his police car to illicit trust from his prey. According to court records, he is alleged to have targeted those who bore than a passing resemblance to his abusive mother. Since most of the killings occurred on midweek eves, the unknown murderer was initially dubbed “The Wednesday Killer” by police.
According to police, Popkov drove his victims to the woods, where he savagely raped them, then murdered them with axes, knives and screwdrivers. He then decapitated the corpses, and even gouged out the heart of one victim. Among the madman’s prey were Yulia Kuprikova, 19, and Tanya Martynova, 20. On October 29, 1998, their naked disfigured remains were dumped on the roadside.
“The experts told us that at first they were killed, then raped,” Tanya’s sister Viktoria told The Siberian Times. “My elder brother Oleg went to the morgue to identify Tanya. He had flown from Moscow immediately. He felt sick when he saw the body, she was so mutilated. He was almost green when he came out of there… he just could not say a word. I did not dare to go in and look.”
The bloody spree reportedly ended when Popkov contracted syphilis and became impotent, admitting to police he had lost not only the desire for sex but for murder.
Investigators began to put the case together from a failed attack on a teenager in 1998, who told detectives how a police car stopped offering her a lift. The driver had then forced her into the woods, stripping her, then repeatedly smashing her head into a tree until she lost consciousness. The teen was found alive near a small village, somehow surviving in the sub-zero Siberian temperatures. After being shown pictures of the suspect, the victim identified Popkov as the assailant. Cops were ready to close in, but Popkov’s faithful wife provided a flimsy alibi, temporarily throwing them off the scent.
The Werewolf was finally arrested in 2012, after law enforcement authorities conducted a DNA sweep along with 3,500 officers. Popkov’s sperm was a 100 percent match with evidence collected from the victims.
In a chilling confession, Popkov admitted he had committed the murders in an attempt to “cleanse” the city of prostitutes — although none of his victims were actual sex workers. According to evidence presented at his trial, “The bodies of many victims were found in abnormal poses because he raped them in abnormal ways.”
During the sensational trial, Popkov’s wife Elena and daughter Ekaterina believed him to be innocent, despite overwhelming evidence. Initially vowing to become a criminologist to prove her father’s innocence, his daughter told the media: “Daddy doesn’t look like some maniac.” They later changed their names and moved from the district.
“He is charming and sociable,” investigator Mikhail Zavorin said. “Women like him but he is a beast inside… and it was always hard to fight a werewolf.”
After his conviction with a sentence of life imprisonment, new evidence was discovered linking Popkov to a string of additional unsolved murders. Once the evidence is confirmed and the final body count totaled, the Werewolf of Siberia may very well be Russia’s most prolific serial killer ever.