‘Angarsk maniac’ turned his bloody ‘hobby’ into business 

‘Angarsk maniac’ turned his bloody ‘hobby’ into business
Serial maniac Mikhail Popkov, jailed for life, suddenly confessed to new murders Photo: The CrimeRussia

Four years ago, Mikhail Popkov was compared with notorious maniac Chikatillo – but the former policeman has already surpassed him by the number of victims. Convicted to life in prison for 22 murders, Popkov has suddenly confessed to 59 more killings. Cashing in on the wave of the public interest to his person, he started making money. The CrimeRussia has become aware that all the earnings are transferred to his only daughter.

Four years ago, he was compared with notorious maniac Chikatillo and nicknamed the ‘Angarsk werewolf’ – although, unlike Chikatillo, the name of Mikhail Popkov hasn’t become generic yet. But the former policeman-turned-serial killer has all chances to go down in history as the most blood-thirsty maniac of all times – should his recent confessions be confirmed, he surpasses Chikatillo by the number of victims. Sources close to the investigation believe that Popkov has just started talking.

Михаил Попков

Mikhail Popkov in court 

Publications about the deeds of the ‘Angarsk maniac’ featuring numerous bloody details started appearing in press back in 2012, after the arrest of Popkov. A year ago, on January 14, 2016, the Irkutsk Regional Court had seemingly drawn a line under this high-profile criminal case. The former policeman, accused of sexual killing of 22 women and 2 attempted murders, was sentenced to the capital punishment. A summary of his crimes was short and simple: all the murders had been committed in the period between 1994 and 2000 – at that time, Popkov was an assistant duty officer in the Angarsk Department of Interior Affairs. He was meeting women and girls on the streets of the city and offered to drive them home for free. Then their bodies were found in the forest, on cemeteries, or on roadsides. Up until 2012, these crimes had remained unsolved. The investigation of some cases had been put on hold. But as soon as Popkov has been sentenced, he started confessing to new murders.

Жертвы Попкова

Popkov's victims 

The existence of a person sentenced to life in prison is futureless and monotonous. Currently, there are five penal colonies in Russia for such convicts. All these colonies have special security regimes and are designed to prevent any attempt to break out. Therefore, during all the years of their existence, not a single convict had ever managed to escape. The lifers are kept separately from other inmates. They are confined in cells, no more than two people together. An inmate could be kept in a solitary confinement if there are threats to the personal safety. The convicts have a right to an outdoor stroll; its duration is an hour and a half or – subject to good behavior – two hours. The convicts can receive one post package and one parcel in a year. In that period, they can have two short visitations. During the first ten years, the lifers are kept in strict conditions. If a convict had no reprimands in this period, he is transferred to normal detention conditions for another ten years. Upon expiry of that period, the inmate has a right to lighter detention conditions. 

Not a single sane person (according to the psychological and psychiatric examination, Popkov is sane) would be willing to be kept in such conditions. The only chance for a criminal to delay the transfer to the permanent place of confinement is to stay in a pretrial detention facility as long as possible. The experts are now wondering: why did the ‘Angarsk maniac’ confess to 59 new murders? There are three main versions: hunger for glory, attempt to stay in the pretrial detention facility for a longer time, or self-denunciation under the pressure of the investigators. Only the two first versions are noteworthy in this particular case. There is also an alternative version – earning some money while staying in the pretrial detention facility. Back in 2012, after being taken into custody, the man had attempted to commit suicide – but in the subsequent four years, he has found a way to use his confinement for commercial purposes. Currently Popkov is open to the press and authors of best-selling books and research studies. He is ready to give interviews – for a compensation. The minimal fee for a short personal talk with journalists is 10 thousand rubles. Photographing and video recording are more expensive. In addition, a Moscow court psychiatrist is currently writing a book about the ‘Angarsk maniac’ and underlying reasons behind his deeds. Popkov has insisted to be a co-author – i.e. he would get a publication fee and royalties for further republishing. According to CrimeRussia sources, all the earnings are transferred to his only daughter. Such a ‘compensation’ from the loving father for the ‘fame’ of being a relative to a serial killer...

Екатерина Попкова

Ekaterina Popkova 

There is no doubt that Mikhail Popkov is a true serial killer. The experts have officially confirmed that he has homicidomania with sadistic elements. After the episodes of cruel violence, the policeman had experienced abreaction; his mood, sleep, and appetite were improving.


Homicidomania (from Latin homo – man, caedo, cecidi – kill, and Greek μανία – obsession) is an irresistible obsession with killing. Mentally ill people normally develop homicidomania not as a symptom of their mental disorder but on the basis of relevant personal features. This is why court psychiatrists and courts recognize many patients with homicidomania sane with regards to murders or attempted murders incriminated to them (except for cases involving psychotic disorders).

Prior to the series of Popkov’s new confessions, Irina Shodorova was officially considered the first victim of the ‘Angarsk werewolf’. Her burnt remains were found on August 30, 1994 in the forest near Berezovaya Rosha (Birch Grove) municipal cemetery. Rumors about a maniac started to spread in Angarsk: exactly a year before the incident, on August 28, 1993, the burnt corpse of Tamara Sheveleva had been found in shrubs on the outskirts of the city. The two murders were very similar, but the Prosecutor’s Office did not consolidate the two cases into one. According to retired colonel Sergei Derzhavin, former criminal investigator for special cases of the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation, who used to supervise the Far East in the beginning of the 2000s, there was a simple explanation of the staunch denial of a series of murders in the region – neither the top police command, nor senior prosecution functionaries were interested in discovering a ‘local maniac’. If the series of the two murders had been registered back in 1994 and a joint task force of the MIA and the Prosecutor’s Office created, the bloody path of the ‘Angarsk maniac’ could be terminated twenty years ago. But this was not done. The Prosecutor’s Office of the Irkutsk Region was in good books at that time, its performance results were excellent, and apparently, its management had decided not to mar its statistics. In 1996, Regional Prosecutor Yuri Chaika – the current Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation – has become the First Deputy Prosecutor General. After this career advancement of Yuri Chaika, his subordinates in Irkutsk were, apparently, too shy to displease Moscow with marred statistics. In the period of 1996–1997, bodies of Svetlana Druzhinina, Elena Dorogova, Viktoria Prikhodko, Tatiana Gorelina, Oksana Strogonova, and Elena Mashneva had been found on the outskirts of Angarsk – but the Prosecutor’s Office continued to persist. It had refused to consolidate all these murders into a single case and refused to admit the existence of a serial maniac – thus, evading the need to report the situation to Moscow. It can’t be ruled out that if the law enforcement authorities had started searching for the maniac in the middle of the 1990s, the fear to be caught could stop Mikhail Popkov from further crimes. But now this speculation is unprovable. Only one thing is known for sure: the maniac has started killing women before 1994. According to his last confessions, the murders have started back in 1992 – although it is unknown yet whether Tamara Sheveleva is his victim, or the style of her murder was just similar to his pattern. 

Жертва Попкова

Popkov's victim 

Another interesting aspect in the case of Mikhail Popkov is the motive of his actions. The most popular version, mentioned in the court and explaining why an exemplary family man and good policeman had started killing, was the revenge for an affair of his wife. Allegedly, Popkov has forgiven her (the adultery had occurred in 1993) – but started venting his anger on other women living ‘sinful’ lives. But the new confessions of the maniac disprove this version: hatred and distrust to the women have emerged in Popkov much earlier. The story was pretty trivial: his ‘first love’ did not wait for his return from the compulsory military service. Popkov told the investigators that he could never forget this. For several years, he had been spying on his unfaithful ‘love’, watched her near her home and workplace – but never caught her eye. It is quite possible that after such spying on the woman, who had broken his belief in love, the smoldering hatred to all the women in the world has transformed into a desire to kill. And then some outer stimulus has made the desire a reality. The investigators do not rule out that Popkov might confess to murders committed prior to 1992 as well. Recently his ‘first love’ has become aware that her ex-boyfriend had been spying on her for years. She was terrified and abstained from changing name and leaving Angarsk only because Popkov had already been sentenced for life.

There were several attempts to locate the serial killer in the Irkutsk region. In December 1998, an operative investigative task force had been formed; it included officers from the Prosecutor’s Office, Regional MIA Administration, and Regional Directorate for Combating Organized Crime. At that time, 24 murders had been attributed to the maniac. In the next year and half, there was no progress with the unsolved murders, and in June 2000, a new operative investigative task force has been created involving Nikolai Kitaev, a prosecutor-criminalist known for his participation in the case of serial killer Vasily Kulik. Kitaev has analyzed 15 unsolved murders in Angarsk, concluded that these crimes had been investigated poorly, requested a number of new expert assessments, and withdrew similar unsolved cases from the archive. But in March 2001, Kitaev was dismissed due to the disbandment of regional prosecutors’ offices for transport. Still, his interview about a maniac operating in Angarsk for 10 years already, killing women – and not being properly sought by law enforcement authorities – has attracted attention of then-Minister of Internal affairs. The Minister has sent colonel Sergei Derzhavin to Irkutsk to verify this information. After the service check, another joint operative investigative task force has been formed. It existed until 2009, solved numerous crimes, but failed to identify the maniac. The case had been transferred to the Siberian Federal District, then returned back to the Investigations Directorate in Irkutsk of the ICR... Ultimately, the professional skills of the new task force and findings of the group led by Sergei Derzhavin (including the deciphered genotype of the killer) have allowed to arrest the former policeman in 2012.

Жертва Попкова

Popkov's victim 

To the moment, Mikhail Popkov has in total confessed to 82 murders. He has already been sentenced to life in prison for 22 murders, and currently the investigators are preparing to charge him with the remaining 58 criminal episodes. Any pressure by the investigation or self-incrimination are out of the question. Popkov confesses to new crimes ‘in portions’. The investigators note his excellent memory – he remembers in detail timing and locations of events that had occurred in the 1990s, describes features and clothes of the victims, and shows crime sites. His confessions allowed to solve some old murders and find several bodies of people earlier considered missing. For Popkov, each such confession is a new event in his totally regulated and predictable life routine – communication with the investigators, face-to-face questionings, visits to the scenes of crimes to verify the testimonies... He has nothing to expect from this life anymore and nothing to lose. Therefore, each new confession postpones his transfer to the prison cell for lifers where he won’t be able to have a normal talk with anyone. And he maintains the interest to his person. The court has already extended his confinement in the pretrial detention facility until April 2017 due to the new murder charges. This time, the victims of the ‘Angarsk werewolf’ include not only women, but also two men. One of them was killed by Popkov – traditionally giving people a ride home – for impolite words about the police. The ex-policeman has avenged the honor of his former colleagues... This episode, combined with the fact that victims of the maniac were not only intoxicated slutty women, but also those who had been just going home, dispels the myth about a ‘moral crusader’ consistently created by Mikhail Popkov after the arrest and turns him into an ordinary serial killer without any ideology. However, the number of victims makes him a truly prominent figure among the Russian and Soviet maniacs.

Попков на следственном эксперименте

Mikhail Popkov during an investigative experiment 

A new expert assessment has been recently commissioned for Mikhail Popkov. Most probably, it would be performed in the Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry. A trip to the hospital would be another amusement for the ‘Angarsk maniac’. The investigators do not rule out that after the submission of the new indictment to the court – or even earlier – the ex-policeman might continue his confessions. So far, all his known crimes have been committed in the Irkutsk region – but before the arrest, he had been repeatedly visiting his relatives in Moscow and Novosibirsk and his mother living in the Lipetsk region. He had also frequently visited Vladivostok: after the dismissal from the police, Popkov was making his living by driving cars from the Far East to Irkutsk. And no one can guarantee that these routes are not ‘marked’ with bodies of his victims.

Video: ‘Angarsk maniac’. Worse than Chikatillo. Murdered 59 women. Shock! Confessions. Part 1 



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