Summer 1992. The police of Angarsk, in Siberian Russia, receive a call from a man in terror claiming to have found the body of a girl in a forest in the area. Following the report, the inspectors arrive at the indicated place and note with dismay the presence of a young woman barbarously killed.
A heinous and inexplicable crime. Investigators start the search for possible leads to identify the culprit, however the investigation reaches a dead end and the case become unsolved.
Nobody at that time knew it was the first murder by one of the most prolific and perverse serial killers in Russian history.
In the following years long will be the chain of crimes between the areas of Angarsk, Vladivostok and Irsuk.
The victims are women between 16 and 40 years old. The corpses show signs of sexual violence and the cause of death varies between blows with a knife, ax, hammer, screwdriver, baseball bat. The murderer rages on the unfortunate, massacring them beyond the imaginable. The bodies sometimes show bite marks after which the serial killer will be nicknamed “The Werewolf”
A totally insane and deviant subject, possessed by a bestiality that knows no bounds.
The investigators form a task force dedicated to the search for this criminal. The attacker’s genetic material is extracted from the crime scenes, however the outcome is unsuccesful.
Suddenly, at the beginning of the new millennium the killings stop. Apparently “The Werewolf” has halted his death path.
With the passage of time, the story cools down and with no further developments in the following months. However, in 2002 the investigations are resumed.
There is a common detail in many of the crime scenes that arouses some attention: tire tracks from a 4×4 Lada, a vehicle used by members of the police. A distressing suspicion emerges: is the serial killer from within the investigative circle?
Following this hypothesis and with the help of the evolution of forensic sciences, 3,500 officers and former members of the police are subjected to DNA testing.
Thanks to this screening the turning point takes place in 2012.
One of the extracted samples corresponds exactly to the genetic traces left by the murderer at the crime scenes. This is Mikhail Popkov, 48, a former policeman who works as a security guard for a chemical and oil plant.
A bitter discovery. “The Werewolf” had always been one step away from those who chased him, managing to go unnoticed.
Born on March 7, 1964 in Norilsk. As a child he moved with his family to live in Angarsk.
The rest of his childhood and adolescence is not known, what we do know is that around 20 he enters the police; there he meets Elena, his future wife. Their relationship culminates in marriage and the two have a daughter named Ekaterina.
Mikhail’s life seems to all intents and purposes satisfying: a nice family, good friendships and a respectable job position. He is considered by his colleagues as a sociable man, passionate about sports, temperamentally extroverted and playful.
It is not clear the origin of the perversions that would turn him into a serial killer, however there is an episode that marks a watershed in his existence.
In 1992, while returning home, Mikhail surprises his wife in the company of a colleague. The two are talking quietly and the situation does not appear so anomalous, however Popkov notices two used condoms in the garbage can. A circumstance that convinces the man of the betrayal, making him definitively fall into a spiral of madness that will expand with devastating consequences.
At this point he decides to devise a “punishment” for all those women who, according to him, did not respect a certain morality.
He starts wandering around at night in his police uniform and vehicle, chasing girls wandering alone. When he spots the victim, he approaches offering a ride. Once in the car, Popkov take her to a wooded area where he kills her. The tools used in the crime are always different according to the circumstances since he uses weapons confiscated by the police. The ferocity nonetheless in raging on women is always the same: all the victims are brutally tortured. On one occasion he beheads a girl while in another crime he extracts the victim’s heart. After killing them he sexually abuses the corpses.
He leads this crazy “mission” until 2000, when his stop is forced by the syphilis he has contracted.
On a few occasions he participates in the inspections of his own crime scenes as a police officer.
In 1998 he resigns from law enforcement and stars working as a security guard.
In January 2015 Popkov is found guilty of 22 murders and sentenced to life in prison. But he does not end there, given that in 2017 the sentenced confessed 59 more murders. The subsequent investigations will prove his guilt for 56 of them, which will lead him to a second life sentence, on 10 December 2018.
With at least 78 victims in his record, Mikhail Popkov is currently held in the Black Dolphin Prison, one of Russia’s toughest security prisons. He will spend the first 15 years of his sentence in solitary confinement. In jail he continues to keep fit and is still capable of 50 pull-ups.
At the end of this story, it is remarkable how this killer managed to lead a double existence for so many years. On one hand, the good father, engaged in a trade to ensure the safety of citizens and on the other a homicidal maniac who committed unimaginable acts, tormenting an enormous number of lives.
The only reassuring note of this whole story is that Mikhail Popkov has been captured and can no longer harm, locked up in a prison for the rest of his days.