Transcript: 128. The Rostov Ripper | Russia (Part 2)

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Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Some parts are graphic in nature and listener discretion is advised. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.

Today’s show is the second episode of a two-part case. We recommend you listen to our episode The Rostov Ripper (Part 1) before listening to Part 2.

Warning: this episode deals, in part, with the abuse and murders of children. It may not be suitable for all audiences.

It was a gloomy November afternoon, and 22-year-old Sveta Korostik was making her way home from Rostov-on-Don by train. A soft-spoken middle-aged man politely asked if he could sit next to her, and she said it was okay.

They talked for a while; he said he used to be a teacher and missed working with children. His new job required him to travel, and he did not like being away from his wife and two kids. There was something about the man that put Sveta at ease – he spoke eloquently and exuded confidence that did not match his demure appearance. His trench coat was somewhat over-sized, and his big glasses made him look comical. Sveta thought it would have been nice having someone like him as your teacher: he was smart, funny and kind.

When Sveta mentioned that her stop was coming up, the man smiled and said he was getting off too. From the platform at Donleskhoz Station, they walked together, talking and laughing. The path through the woods was the quickest way, and as night was falling, Sveta continued along with her new friend. It was cold and dark and in the isolation of the woods. In the blink of an eye, the man transformed into a beast. He attacked Sveta and pushed her to the ground. She tried to fight him off, but he knew exactly what he was doing – he had done it many, many times before.

On the foggy morning of November 13th 1990, police found Sveta Korostik’s mutilated body in the woods behind Donleskhoz Station. The killer cut off the tip of her tongue and chewed off both her nipples. Sveta’s body was riddled with stab-wounds – she had suffered a slow, torturous death.

Police were not surprised by this gruesome discovery. According to their records, Sveta was the 36th victim killed by the same man, a serial killer better known as the Rostov Ripper. Police found Vadim Gromov’s body on the 30th of October and Vitya Tishchenko’s on the 3rd of November. Another three days later, Sveta’s body surfaced in the ominous woods. This time, however, police had a suspect.

A forensic examination determined that Sveta was murdered a week before they found her remains. Around that time, a plain-clothes police officer saw a man emerge from the woods at Donleskhoz station with – what looked like – blood on his face. The man was known to police and had been arrested in connection with the Ripper murders six years before. They could only hope that they would have enough evidence to keep him off the streets for good this time. The man was one of the world’s most notorious serial killers, The Ripper of Rostov, Andrei Chikatilo.

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Andrei Romonovic Chikatilo was born on the 16th of October 1936 to an impoverished farming family. His parents were Roman and Anna. They lived in Yablochnoye, a small rural village in Ukraine. Under Stalin’s rule, farmers were forced to surrender land, livestock, and crops to the State in a programme called Collectivisation. They were left empty-handed, while all of Russia’s produce was shared, exported, or simply wasted. Like many others in famine ravaged Ukraine, the Chikatilo family had very little food. Desperate for something to eat, Andrei and his family lived off grass and leaves.

In June 1941 Nazi troops invaded the USSR, and Andrei’s father, Roman Chikatilo, was called to serve in the Red Army. Before long, Roman contracted tuberculosis was taken as a prisoner of war. Back home in Ukraine, Andrei and his mother watched World War II as it raged on their doorstep. The young boy experienced bombings and everyday violence – his life was all about survival. Later in life, a journalist asked Chikatilo if he liked kindness as a child. His answer came without emotion:

“I don’t know if I liked it. No one was kind to me. I grew up during the war. We only wanted to survive, no one was kind.”

Andrei was born with water on the brain, which caused a chronic genital-urinary condition. He wet his bed for many years, still into adolescence. Andrei and his mom shared a single bed in their one-room home, so his condition caused a lot of stress. Instead of seeking help or supporting her little boy, his mother Anna berated him and mocked him for wetting his bed.

She also told him a terrifying story… She said that when he had an older brother, Stephan, who disappeared in 1934, at the age of 5. According to Anna Chikatilo, the little boy was killed and eaten by their neighbours, because of severe starvation that plagued their town. His mother used this story as a cautionary tale, so Andrei would not leave the yard. She said that Stephan was eaten, and hungry people would eat Andrei too if they had the chance!

In 1943, his mother gave birth to a baby girl, Tatyana. Roman Chikatilo was still a prisoner of war, and Anna never revealed the identity of Tatyana’s father. However, it was commonly believed that it was the result of a rape by a Nazi soldier. And because of the one-room-house they lived in, the likelihood that Andrei witnessed his mother’s rape was strong.

Young Chikatilo started school in the nearby town of Suny shortly after his half-sister was born. He was short-sighted but refused to say anything, as he didn’t want to be teased for wearing glasses. It was only in his early 30s when he finally caved and bought his first pair of glasses. His above-average intelligence proved helpful because he was able to memorise text from hearing. He was sullen and withdrawn and did not have many friends, and escaped into the world of literature and language. Andrei was a dreamer and often forgot his books and ink. Instead of asking for help, he simply sat at his desk and cried most of the day.

When the war ended in 1945, Roman was liberated and returned home. Because he was captured by the Nazis, he was not welcomed home as a hero. Instead, his community felt Roman was a coward, and he was ostracised. Andrei was even bullied at school for having such a weak father.

In the wake of World War II, another famine swept across Ukraine. Chikatilo recalled these days, saying his family just sat inside their home, hungry and crying. At school, things were still complicated – he had grown up a bit, sure. He was even called Andrei Sila, or Andrei ‘the Strong’. He was muscular and tall and claimed to be the strongest boy in the entire school. However, another boy looked over his shoulder at the urinal and said his foreskin looked weird. The rumour went around school like wildfire, and although Andrei did nothing about it, his anger was simmering in his silence.

As a teen, Andrei became aware of the fact that something was different about him. While all his classmates talked about girls and sex, it didn’t come quite as naturally to him. He suffered from impotence and struggled to get erections. He tried to get aroused by paging through pornographic magazines, but it didn’t work. Instead, he preferred learning more about Communism and feverishly read the works of Marx and Lenin. To him, that was logical, he understood it. Sexuality and whatever was considered ‘normal’ about it, made no sense to him whatsoever. He joined the Communist Party Youth League and focussed his energy on (what he believed was) the greater good.

Chikatilo’s relationship with the opposite sex was problematic from a young age. He was attracted to girls, but could not do anything about it. He felt the pressure to develop at the same rate as his peers, but he was sexually inadequate. When he was 18, he was home alone when 13-year-old Tanya Bala, a friend of his sister’s, knocked on the door. He let her inside and was suddenly overcome by a lustful urge. He wrestled the girl to the ground and ejaculated on her. Tanya was shocked but never told anyone what had happened. After the incident, Chikatilo was ashamed and disgusted by his actions and vowed to be celibate until he married.

He wanted to leave Yablochnoye and applied to enrol for tertiary education at Moscow University. He was rejected, not unusual for someone of Chikatilo’s lower-socio-economic background. Andrei came from a humble background, and although he was strong academically, he was not quite up there with the rest. Moscow University only accepted the cream of the crop, but the young Ukrainian didn’t see it that way. He believed this rejection was because of his father’s cowardly stigma and resented him for it for the rest of his life.

Determined to rise above his station, Chikatilo enrolled at a local college. His fellow-students liked him, but he did not have much luck with romance. He became angry when asked about it and pre-empted ridicule before anyone ever said anything. His biggest fear was to be mocked and teased like when he was growing up. At college, he met a girl, and they dated for a couple of weeks. It ended because he was unable to perform sexually. The girlfriend told everyone about it, and Chikatilo became a laughing stock. What he had been fearing, came true. Later in life, he recalled that he was so humiliated and angry, he fantasised about tearing her body to pieces.

In 1957 21-year-old Andrei Chikatilo was called for military service, and was placed in the Communications Unit. He did well in the army. At first, he made it into the prestigious group of KGB border troops in Central Asia. Because he was well educated, he was sent to Berlin where he worked as a signalman. He kept to himself, and when the other soldiers went out to meet girls and go dancing, he preferred to stay behind. The general assumption was that he was gay, something he was quick to refute. Many years later, Chikatilo claimed that he was sexually assaulted by soldiers in his troop. He never reported it at the time, because he was not prepared to face the backlash.

After his military service, in 1960, he returned to his family home but didn’t stay long. He moved to the Russian city Rodionovo-Nesvetayevsky [Nyes-veta-yefsky] (just north of Rostov) where he worked as a telephone engineer. He also worked as a freelance reporter for a regional newspaper, writing about anything from sports to patriotic education articles.

Chikatilo saved enough money to move his parents and sister to Russia. They all lived in the same apartment, a big step up from their impoverished rural home in Ukraine. Tatyana felt sorry for her big brother for being socially awkward. She tried her best to set him up with a girlfriend, but no one was interested. Her efforts eventually paid off when Andrei met her friend, Feodosia Odinacheva {Fiya-doh-zja}.

They married in 1963, in a simple ceremony in the registrar’s office. Because Chikatilo said he would wait until they were married before they had sex, Feodosia never knew he had issues. But she encouraged him and determined to have children they worked around the problem. They agreed that he would ejaculate on his hands and insert his finger into his wife, so he could impregnate her. This proved to be successful, and the couple had two children together; their daughter Ludmilla was born 1965, and their son Yuri came four years later.

As his young family was growing, Chikatilo studied Philology through correspondence at Rostov State University. In 1970, he also completed his degree in Russian literature. In 1971, at the age of 34, Andrei Chikatilo found his dream job: teaching Russian language and literature at Vocational School No.32 in Novoshakhtinsk. He was an active member of the Communist Party and a family man. From the outside, he looked like a loyal and loving husband who never drank too much vodka. He was the perfect Soviet man by all accounts, but something else was brewing beneath the surface.

Although thirty-something Comrade Chikatilo was well-qualified with a passion for Russian literature, his awkward manner and introverted personality meant that he struggled to connect with his students. He had no control of his classroom, and no one respected him. His nickname was The Goose, a derogatory term in Russian, meaning ‘idiot’ or ‘jerk’.

In 1973, his mother, Anna Chikatilo, passed away. After her death, Andrei became less reserved, somewhat more unhinged. He found himself attracted to younger girls and did not do much to hide it. Perhaps Chikatilo had known this about himself before, but only after his mother was gone did he decide to act on it. The tall and awkward language teacher was often seen loitering outside the girls’ toilets, and students also reported that he fondled himself in class. Soon his behaviour degenerated even further, and multiple students said that he molested them, after offering private tutor or counselling services. On an excursion to a swimming pool, he swam up to a female student and grabbed her. She screamed and tried to get away, and the incident excited Chikatilo tremendously. While holding her in a firm grip, he ejaculated.

As a part of his job, Chikatilo was also in charge of a boys’ dormitory. The teenage boys teased him, and he had no authority. When he snuck into the dorm one night and attempted fellatio on a sleeping teen, the mob of senior students busted him and proceeded to beat him up. From this time on, Chikatilo always carried a knife with him.

By rights, he should have been fired many times over. Sadly, in Soviet Russia, the less one said, the better. Having someone like Chikatilo in a faculty would have reflected poorly on the entire department. It was easier to send him to another school and forget about him, so he was asked to resign of his own free will. He left a trail of destruction behind him, of abused children and teenagers, who were simply expected to ‘get over it’. It was swept under the rug, and none of his victims received any support.

By 1978, Chikatilo was teaching at Vocational School No.33 in the small coal-mining town of Shakhty, near Rostov-on-Don. His wife, Feodosia, was offered the job as matron of the girls’ dorm at the school and it seemed as if the Chikatilo’s were settling well into their new hometown.

But it didn’t take the perverted teacher long to get a new nickname. Because he harassed a 15-year-old boy, he was called all sorts of things, but the one that stuck was a name that loosely translates to ‘Jerk-off’.

Chikatilo became withdrawn but seeing as though he had always been introverted, no one noticed a change in his behaviour. He was brooding, struggling to come to terms with things he had discovered about himself. Never had he been as stimulated as when someone was screaming or fighting to get away from him. His sadistic tendencies were his guilty pleasure, kept hidden away from his wife and children. At home, he was a dutiful Soviet citizen who worked hard and provided for his family. By all accounts, he was a dedicated father who loved spending time with his own kids.

Chikatilo bought a dilapidated shack in a quiet lane of Shakhty town for 1500 rubles without his wife’s knowledge. He purchased the hut, so he had somewhere he could meet up with sex workers. Then things took a turn for the worse…

On the 22nd of December 1978, 9-year-old Lena Zakotnova walked home from the ice skating rink when she met Chikatilo. He said he had some American bubble gum and offered her some. The only thing was… It was at his house. Unable to resist the rare and exotic treat, Lena followed him through the snow-covered lanes into his dilapidated home next to the Grushevka River. The 42-year-old did not seem threatening in the least – he had greying hair and over-sized eye-glasses, making him appear like a caricature of a man.

His intention was to rape her, but when he failed to get an erection, he strangled her, then stabbed her three times, after which he ejaculated. He floated in the euphoria of the moment before realising what he had done. He had to dispose of the little girl’s body, and the quickest way he could think of was to throw her into the icy river, only yards away from his rickety house. He flung her schoolbag in too and watched it float downstream. What he didn’t know was that Lena had not died, she was only unconscious.

The next day, a woman walking along the river, saw the small, lifeless body of a child floating in the river and alerted authorities. An eyewitness description led investigators to Chikatilo’s door, but Feodosia provided an alibi. In the end, a convicted rapist, Alexandr Kravchenko was found guilty of Lena’s murder and wrongfully executed.

Chikatilo was spooked and managed to fight his urge to kill again, for a while that is.  Eventually, he could not help himself any longer. In 1981, he was finally fired from his teaching job, after several complaints of molestation. By this time, no other school would take him in. At a loss regarding his career, he took a job as a factory supply clerk, a position that required him to travel all over the Soviet Union.

On the 3rd of September 1981, Chikatilo found his second victim at the bus stop outside the Rostov Public Library. 17-year-old Larisa Tkachenko agreed to hang out with the middle-aged man. Larisa had run away from boarding school and sometimes exchanged sexual favours for a meal or a place to stay. On that early-autumn day in Rostov, Chikatilo invited her to share some vodka and ‘relax’. Chikatilo claimed that Larisa understood the implication; that it would be a sexual encounter.

They walked through the woods, towards the Don River, and as soon as they reached a secluded spot, he ripped off her clothes and attempted to rape her. He failed to get an erection, and she laughed at him. Chikatilo snapped and attacked her, pinning her down on the ground. Larisa screamed, and he forced mud down her throat to stifle her. Chikatilo did not have a knife on him, so used his teeth to cut into her flesh, biting off her nipple. Then he took a stick and poked at her, mimicking a stabbing, which caused him to ejaculate. He was so excited that he ‘danced with joy’ around the body. When the exhilaration subsided, he covered her body with some leaves and branches. Larisa’s body was found the next day.

After the second killing, Chikatilo no longer tried to abstain from murder and mutilation. He knew that the only way he would ever achieve sexual gratification was by torturing and killing people. He was not too particular in his choice of victims, but seeing as they were easier to overpower, he mainly picked out children and women.

He stalked his victims at train stations, bus stops and public parks and always found a way to convince them to go with him. Because he travelled around the Soviet Union for work, he had the freedom to commit his heinous crimes without the risk of detection. The possibilities were endless…

Over the years, Andrei Chikatilo repeated his killing pattern over and over again. He lured vagrants or runaways, other times just kids making their way home from school, from bus stations into the woods and tried to rape them. When he could not achieve an erection, he used his knife as a substitute. He mutilated their sexual organs and – with many victims – cut off the tips of their noses of tongues and ate it. Most of his victims had their eyes cut out of their sockets. Chikatilo later said he did this because he believed his victims kept and imprinted his face in their eyes, even after they died. Because of this signature, police were able to connect the murders and admit that they were dealing with a serial killer.

His third murder was on the 12th of June 1982, while he was travelling for work. 13-year-old Lyubov Biryuk’s body was found in an orchard near Krasnodar Airport. Between June and December, the bloodthirsty Chikatilo killed six teenagers, all over the country. He was flying under the radar, and no one knew the cases were connected.

In the summer of 1983, he moved closer to home with his killings. 15-year-old Laura Sarkisyan was an Armenian girl who had run away from home and suffered from amnesia. She was the perfect victim, and Chikatilo took advantage of the situation. Chikatilo confessed to this murder after his arrest in 1992, but he was never charged for it due to insufficient evidence. That same summer he killed his lover’s mentally disabled younger sister, 13-year-old Irina Dunenkova. Her body laid undiscovered in Aviators Park for 10 unforgiving years.

At the end of May 1984, Chikatilo killed one of his friends. Tatyana Petrosyan, 29, and her 10-year-old daughter Svetlana went for a walk in the Shakhty woods with someone they knew and trusted and never returned.

Meanwhile, it was business as usual for Chikatilo-the-family-man. He still clocked in for work and went on business trips, guarding his dark secret behind his mousy appearance. When he was accused of stealing, his boss asked him to leave. Chikatilo denied the accusation and refused to leave. However, pressure mounted, and he was fired in the summer. He found another supply clerk job in Rostov, starting on the 1st of August 1984.

During the first week at his new job, Chikatilo killed 16-year-old Natalya Golosovskaya in Aviators Park and another 17-year-old girl on the banks of the Don River. The next week, he went to Uzbekistan for business and returned mid-August.

On the 14th of September 1984, officers surveilling at Rostov Central Market became suspicious of Chikatilo when they saw him talking to an unsupervised child. When they confronted him, he downplayed the situation and walked away. Inspector Zanosovsky had a bad feeling about Chikatilo and followed him around the city. His behaviour was somewhat erratic: the inspector watched as he changed from one mode of transport to another. Chikatilo pestered young girls and women on buses and trains, at stations. He never went home, and police caught him in the act of soliciting.

Chikatilo’s blood type did not match the semen found on all the Rostov Ripper’s victims, so he was eliminated from the investigation. However, investigators wanted to keep him in custody while they investigated him further. They were able to detain him on theft charges, and he served three months of a one-year sentence.

After his release in December 1984, Chikatilo found a job at the Novocherkassk Electric Locomotive Plant, requiring him to travel (as a buyer). He moved his family from Shakhty to Novocherkassk and kept out of trouble for the most part. Police interest in the case scared him off, and he only committed two murders in 1985, that of 18-year-old Natiali Pokhlistova whom he met at Domodedovo Airport near Moscow. The other murder was a vagrant back in Shakhty called Inessa Gulyaeva.

Throughout 1986, Chikatilo took a break. He would later say that he turned 50 in 1986 and felt good – he did not need to kill anyone. But when an opportunity presented itself while he travelled for work in May of 1987, he could not resist it. He lured a mentally disabled boy into the woods behind a train station, thousands of miles from home, in Revda. Oleg Makarenkov’s body was only found in 1991, after Chikatilo’s arrest.

In 1988, Chikatilo spent more and more time in Rostov, and his rising body count showed that he had no intention of slowing down. After an eight-month hiatus, in March 1989, he lured 16-year-old Tatyana Ryzhova into his daughter Luydmilla’s vacant apartment in Shakhty. His daughter was going through a divorce and had moved back home with Chikatilo and his wife. He hid the dismembered remains of his victim in a sewer. Police never linked her murder to the Ripper, as he had never dismembered before. On the contrary, his attempts to conceal his victims’ bodies were always haphazardly executed.

Chikatilo had become comfortable working around his devious hobby, while still keeping up appearances as a family man. Chikatilo was on his way to his father’s birthday party when he saw 19-year-old Hungarian student, Yelena Varga waiting at a bus stop. As per his regular MO, he lured her into the woods, by offering to walk her home. He said he knew a shortcut and she trusted him. The murder was particularly violent, and he removed her uterus with a pocketknife. After the murder, he cleaned himself up somewhat and carried on to his father’s party.

In November of 1990, after Sveta Korostik was found near Donlezkhoz Station, police could place Chikatilo at the station around the time of her murder. The day after they discovered Sveta’s body, Chikatilo was placed under surveillance. They saw him take multiple train trips around Rostov. He approached women and children and struck up conversations, just like he did back in 1984. When the strangers didn’t want to talk to him, he moved on to the next person.

On November 20th 1990, he was seen buying a gallon of beer at the marketplace. He walked around Novocherkassk and talked to a couple of kids and teenage boys. One after the other, the boys refused to speak to him. But he was undeterred and clearly scouting for his next victim. Police decided to intervene and arrested him at the marketplace.

In the car on the way to Rostov, Chikatio was silent. He did not even ask why he was being detained. At one point he muttered to himself:

This once again speaks to the fact that there is no point in quarrelling with the authorities.’

They searched his house and found 23 knives, a hammer and a pair of shoes that matched the size 9 print found at the scene in Krasny-Sulin. After his arrest, a newspaper article described him as ‘outwardly quite prosperous…a caring husband, father and grandfather.’ And this was his cover for all those years.

Police checked with Chikatilo’s previous and current employers, going back 12 years, and were able to place him near the murder scenes every time. Perhaps the most obvious was that Chikatilo was in Ukraine on 14 May 1988 when 9-year-old Alyosha Voronka was murdered in Iloviask.

Chikatilo denied any wrong-doing. He had a folding knife on his person, and one of his fingers was severely injured. Vitya Tishchenko, one of his last victims, was a muscular 16-year-old, and from the crime scene, it was clear that there was a ferocious fight between the killer and his victim. Chikatilo’s fingernail had been bitten off, and the bone was broken. It was so bad that Chikatilo took a day off work to seek medical attention and told nurses that it was a work-related injury.

He was placed in a KGB holding cell together with the most cunning informant police had. Despite endless conversations designed to entrap Chikatilo, he refused to confess to anything. He wrote a 9-page document, declaring that he had ‘sexual weakness’ that he could not control. He admitted to satisfying his deviant urges by finding willing participants at stations or paying homeless people. But he also said that he was impotent and never inflicted any harm on anyone. He firmly denied being the Rostov Ripper.

As the days rolled by, police knew they could not hold their suspect in custody indefinitely – in fact, the maximum detention period was ten days – they had to find a way to make him talk. He had been in custody for nine days at this point, and he only repeated what he had already said, and refused to say anything more.

Chief investigator Issa Kostoyev agreed that Bukharov’s psychiatrist, Alexandr Bukhanovsky could question Chikatilo. Where police interrogators confronted Chikatilo with aggression, threats, and violence, the psychiatrist took a different route. The doctor said that he believed Chikatilo suffered from a mental condition and explained it to him. He said that he was not interested in the crimes, but rather in the motivation. And because he believed Chikatilo could not help himself in committing the murders, he would explain the diagnosis to Chikatilo’s family. The doctor said that he was eager to learn more about the condition as a scientist. Without wasting time trying to connect with Chikatilo, he started reading exerts from the 65-page profile he had written in 1985, five years before. The document was labelled: Citizen X. It read like Chikatilo’s life story.

Chikatilo listened attentively, and everything Dr Bukhanovsky said rang true, and he felt flattered somehow that he was of scientific interest. Suddenly, the monster within was disarmed, and he collapsed in a flood of tears, confessing to everything. His 13-year spree of terror had come to an end.

He explained how his behaviour as a molester had escalated, and eventually, he murdered multiple women, girls and boys. He lured the adult females, who were usually sex workers or vagrants with the promise of vodka and money. He was a bit more creative with his younger victims and spent some time building a rapport. He’d then lure them with promises like American candy or show them a coin or stamp collection. Remember, he was a teacher and had some idea of how to connect with kids. He used this to his advantage.

He explained that only once he saw blood on his victims, could he get aroused. He said:

“The whole thing – the cries, the blood, the agony – gave me relaxation and a certain pleasure.”

When asked about the cannibalism… Chikatilo admitted that he liked the taste of blood. He claimed that after he removed the genitals from his victims, he discarded it in the woods nearby, as he walked back to the street or the station. However, all scenes were fine-combed, and no other body parts were ever recovered. Perhaps wild animals worked quickly, but investigators believed Chikatilo did consume some body parts. He did admit that chewing and swallowing nipples and penis tips gave him an ‘animal satisfaction’. By eating parts of his victims, he had hoped to increase his potency.

Police prepared a statement on Chikatilo’s behalf, and it contained a list with the names of 36 victims. Chikatilo provided every single detail of all 36 murders. He also admitted to another 20 killings – which brought his total victim count to 56.

Police had to question the confessions’ validity, as they did not want to take any chances. If he was making false confessions, the entire case against him could collapse. Chikatilo led police to a location in the woodland near the Shakhty cemetery. He showed them the buried remains of Alexey Khobotov who was killed in 1989. The skeletal remains were covered with leaves and branches. Only the killer would have known what was in the shallow grave.

Chikatilo took police to one site after the other, and more victims were found. He recalled everything: the day and time he killed them, what they were wearing, the conversation they had, which knife he used… In a re-enactment, he showed how he stood to his victims’ side while stabbing them, to avoid blood splatter from dirtying his clothes.

Despite all the detailed confessions, only 53 had enough evidence to go to trial. The media called him ‘The Maniac’, and it was easier to believe that someone who committed such heinous crimes was insane. However, he was declared legally sane and was able to stand trial for the crimes he committed.

The trial commenced on the 14th of April 1992, and the people of Rostov wanted Chikatilo’s head on a stake. Some angered citizens called for the guards to release him into the crowd so they could ‘take care’ of him. The whole nation looked on as the macabre details of his crimes were laid out, one after the other. All up, the trial lasted for six months.

In the courtroom, the infamous Ripper of Rostov was locked in an iron cage, not only for his own safety but because of his unpredictable behaviour. His antics unsettled onlookers: he was constantly muttering to himself and occasionally threw his head back and roared with laughter, like a maniac. At one point he jumped up and pulled down his pants, waving his penis for all to see, and said:

“Look at this useless thing, what do you think I could do with that?”

With his pants still down, he was escorted out of the courtroom. On another occasion, he claimed to be pregnant, and said that when the guards hit him in the stomach, they were harming his unborn child.

On May 13th he retracted his confessions of six of the murders. Judge Leonid Akhobzyanov spoke his mind, making it clear that he felt Chikatilo was only causing trouble. Chikatilo asked that the judge be replaced, as his remarks were not neutral in the least. When the Prosecutor agreed with Chikatilo and his defence lawyer, the judge told him to step down, and he was replaced.

Mountains of evidence were stacked against Chikatilo. However, the one question that had not been answered was why his blood type did not match the semen found at the crime scenes. In a study from 1988, four years after his first arrest, a new study discovered that a person’s semen sample does not necessarily always match his blood type. In a phenomenon called ‘paradoxical secretion’.

This is what authorities called it, but this condition is controversial if it actually exists at all. It was more likely a clerical error by the lab – someone must have mixed up blood or semen samples, and in Soviet Russia, everyone knew better than to own up to such a vital error. If he was tested after his second arrest, the results were never publicised. With today’s DNA testing techniques, they would have proved that he was the killer, but in those days, it was not possible.

Once the trial concluded, it was another two months before the verdict was read. The judge ruled that Chikatilo was of sound mind and that his crimes were premeditated and executed according to his masterplan, a template of sorts. He was not insane, just pure evil.

Chikatilo was allowed to speak, but instead of begging for forgiveness, or expressing remorse, he rambled on about himself for two hours. He carried on about how he had been plagued by his own sexual deviance for his entire life, and how he was bullied as a child.

It took the judge no less than two days to read the findings of the court. On the 15th of October 1992, Andrei Chikatilo was found guilty of five counts of molestation and 52 of the 53 counts of murder he was charged with. It is believed that he had more victims, but he was convicted for the ones with irrefutable evidence.

Chikatilo reacted to his sentence by saying:

“When I used my knife, it brought psychological relief. I know I have to be destroyed. I was a mistake of nature.”

When Chikatilo was led from the courtroom, brother of one of the victims, 17-year-old Lyudmila Alekseyeva who was killed in 1984, threw a piece of metal at the serial killer. It hit him square in the chest. Police officers moved to arrest the man, but the crowd of victims’ families formed a barrier and shielded him. He was not arrested.

It was as cold is it gets, at 17 degrees below zero on the 14th of February 1994, a day associated with love and romance in the Western world. But there was no love lost for Andrei Chikatilo. The Rostov Ripper, The Butcher of Rostov, the Red Ripper, the Maniac, whatever you want to call him, was led from his cell. He had petitioned President Boris Yeltsin, asking to spare his life. Chikatilo suggested they studied him: sex-therapists, psychotherapists… Anyone. He said he volunteered himself to be a subject of scientific study for the rest of his life. So, on this morning, when he was taken by the guards, he believed he was being transported to Moscow. But that wasn’t the case.

In a dark courtyard, the Prosecutor read Yeltsin’s reply. Chikatilo said:

“What, refused?”

Silence fell in the dark and icy-cold courtyard. It was Chikatilo who broke the silence:

“So now they will shoot me?”

The Prosecutor addressed the guards with an order:

“Execute the sentence.”

The feared serial killer was taken into a room and executed by a single gunshot to his right ear.

Chikatilo’s heinous crimes went on to inspire other killers, like Alexander Pichushkin, the Chessboard Killer, whose main goal was to run up a higher body count than Chikatilo. He wanted to go down in history as Russia’s most prolific serial killer. In the end, he was found guilty of 49 murders, three shy of Chikitilo’s 52. Even Chikatilo’s own son, Yuri, was arrested for attempted murder in 2009.

In all honesty, we’ll probably never know exactly how many people died at the hands of Andrei Chikatilo. He claimed there were 56 victims. But what about Andrei Kravchenko who was wrongfully executed for the murder of Chikatilo’s first victim, Lena Zakotnova? Or the two mentally disabled teens who died in police custody after relentless interrogation?

In a twist of fate, Chikatilo’s last victim, Sveta Korostik, was found on November the 13th – the birthday of his first victim, little Lena Zakotnova. Life and death had come a macabre full circle.

As a child, Andrei Chikatilo grew up fearing child-eating monsters living outside his gate. In the end, that is quite literally what he became. He morphed into his own fear, a monster of the worst kind. A boogeyman, whom parents warned their children about for decades to come…

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