Between 1992 and 2010, dozens of women were abducted from the streets of Angarsk, Siberia. These women were later found to have been brutally murdered and raped postmortem. Given nicknames such as “The Wednesday Killer” and “The Werewolf of Siberia,” the mysterious killer continued to stalk the streets, preying on sex workers and women who frequented bars. Police believed that the killer may have been a metalworker or even a cemetery worker. It would be nearly two decades before detectives would find out that the heinous killings were committed by one of their own.
Mikhail Popkov had a number of close calls throughout his serial killing career, the first of which was when investigators had discovered that one of the killer’s victims had syphilis at the time of her death and had also learned that Popkov had somehow contracted syphilis. Though police had enough evidence to collect DNA from Popkov, his wife Elena was able to construct an alibi for her husband. As a result, Popkov became more careful about his crimes and the arrest of Popkov would further be postponed.
In 1998, a 15-year-old girl named Svetlana M was able to survive the attack by the then unknown killer. According to Svetlana, a man in a police car crept up alongside her as she had been walking home one evening and offered her a ride. Svetlana agreed to go along with the police officer, but then things took an unexpected turn. The officer took her back into the woods and forced the young woman to take off her clothing. He then repeatedly smashed her head into a tree. By some miracle, Svetlana managed to survive the ordeal, in spite of being left unconscious in the woods for several days with no clothing and in sub-zero temperatures.
Police were able to show Svetlana a photo of Popkov and she confirmed that it was the man who had assaulted her. Again Popkov and his wife were questioned about the mysterious attacks in the city. Elena offered Popkov another alibi and the police took their word for it.
Mikhail Popkov had been employed as a police officer during the 1990s, before moving on to work as a security guard. Popkov’s wife Elena had also been employed with the police. It is believed that their connection to the local police is what had allowed Popkov to operate virtually undetected for nearly two decades. It wasn’t until it was ordered that nearly 3,500 serving and retired police officers submit to DNA testing that Popkov became a viable suspect in the serial murders that had plagued the city.
Popkov was arrested in 2012. He confessed to 24 of the dozens of unsolved murders within the area, claiming that he had stopped in 2000 after he had become impotent. He was formally convicted of 22 of the murders in 2015.
In January of 2017, Popkov confessed to the slayings of an additional 59 women. If convicted, Popkov will become the most prolific serial killer in Russian history.