The Heart of a Monster
The Girl In The Red Coat
Late in the afternoon of December 22, 1978, in the small coal-mining town of Shakhty,
southern Russia, Svetlana Gurenkova sat waiting for a streetcar to take her home. As she
waited in the cold, her attention was drawn to a plump young girl who stood a short
distance from her. The girl was wearing a distinctive red coat with a hood trimmed in
black fur. As further protection against the cold, she wore a brown rabbit-fur cap and a
What attracted Svetlana's attention wasn't so much the girl or her clothing but the man she
was with. He was a tall, grey-haired man in his forties wearing a long black overcoat and
carrying a shopping bag. The man had a long face and nose and wore oversized glasses. It
wasn't his appearance that made her suspicious, it was the way the man was looking at the
young girl and whispering to her. The girl didn't seem to know him but still seemed
interested in what he had to say. Sometime later the man walked away. The girl followed
shortly after, looking happy and content. As Svetlana watched them walk away, her
streetcar arrived and she lost sight of them.
The young girl's name was Lena Zakotnova, a bright, happy nine-year-old who was on her
way home from school when she met the man at the trolley stop. She had told a school
friend earlier that she might be getting some "imported" chewing gum from a "nice old
man" that she'd met. Perhaps that was what enticed her to go with the man to his "secret
house," a small run-down shack, a short walk from the trolley stop.
Shortly after reaching their destination, the man unlocked the door of the shack and
switched on the light before leading the girl inside, locking the door behind them. Once
inside, the man wasted no time in pushing her to the floor and removing her coat and
panties. As she began to scream, he pressed his forearm across her throat and leaned his
body weight against her until she lay still. Her eyes were still open, so he blindfolded her
with her scarf before attempting to have sex with her.
Unable to achieve an erection, he began to violate the girls genitals with his fingers,
finding that the attack stimulated him to orgasm like never before. As he continued with
his assault, the girl began wriggling under him, struggling to draw breath through her
damaged throat. Concerned that the girl would report him for what he'd done, he
produced a knife and stabbed her three times in the stomach. When she lay still, the man
picked up her body and belongings and left the house, heading across a vacant lot to the
Grushevka River. In his haste to leave, he failed to notice two things. The blood of his
victim that had dripped onto the doorstep and the light that he had left burning.
Upon reaching the river he hurled her body into the freezing water and watched it
disappear downstream. Throwing her school bag after her, he turned and headed for
home, not realising that the girl was still alive.
The following day, after Lena's body was discovered floating in the river, Svetlana
Gurenkova told police at the scene that she had seen the girl at the tram stop with a tall,
thin, middle-aged man who wore glasses and a black overcoat. A police artist was
summoned and a sketch of the man prepared. Later the same evening, the Shahkty police
arrested Alexsandr Kravchenko, a local man who had previously served six years of a
ten-year prison sentence, for the rape and murder of a seventeen-year-old girl in 1970. At
the time of his arrest, Kravchenko was twenty-five and had never worn glasses.
While Kravchenko was being questioned, the sketch of the suspect that Gurenkova had
described was circulated throughout the town. One man that it was shown to was the
principal of a local mining school. After looking closely at the drawing he told police that
it closely resembled one of his teachers, Andrei Chikatilo. He was warned by police not to
tell anyone that he had made an identification. Later, as two other detectives searched the
streets that bordered the river, they found splashes of blood on the steps of a small shack.
They also noticed that an interior light had been left on. When inquiries with neighbours
revealed that the building was the property of Andrei Chikatilo, the police called him in for
questioning but released him shortly after when his wife confirmed his story that he had
been home with her the entire evening.
Even though the evidence against Chikatilo was strong, police considered Kravchenko a
more viable suspect and eventually managed to obtain a "confession" from him. After a
short trial Kravchenko was found guilty of the murder of Lena Zakotnova and sentenced
to fifteen years in a labour camp. Hearing the verdict, the people of Shahkty lodged an
official complaint against the leniency of the sentence. A new judge appointed to
investigate the complaint upheld the public appeal and passed a death sentence on
Kravchenko. By the time the sentence was carried out in 1984, over a dozen women and
children had fallen victim to the real killer. Had the police taken the time to further
investigate Andrei Chikatilo's involvement instead of implicating an innocent man, they
would have prevented one of the most brutal and despicable series of murders in criminal
Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo was born on October 16, 1936 in Yablochnoye, a small
Ukrainian farming village. Being born in the midst of Josef Stalin's campaign to
communise rural land by force meant that Andrei was introduced to death and destruction
at a young age. At the age of five, his mother told Andrei that, seven years earlier, his
older brother Stephan had disappeared and the family believed that he had been kidnapped
and eaten by neighbours. The story had a profound effect on the boy who later admitted
that he often imagined what had been done to his brother.
Several years later when World War Two broke out, Chikatilo's father, Roman, was
conscripted into the army. Captured by the Germans, he did not return home until well
after the war when he was branded by the Stalinist regime as a traitor for "allowing himself
to be caught." Even though Andrei was only ten when his father returned, he was already
a devout communist and openly criticised his father for his "betrayal."
From the beginning, Andrei was a scholarly child who spent more time reading than
playing with friends. He was particularly attracted to any books about the Russian
partisans who fought the Germans. One in particular told the story of how the partisans
had captured several German prisoners and had taken them to a forest and tortured them.
Because of his quiet ways and an almost effeminate demeanour, Chikatilo had few friends
and was constantly teased. He was extremely near-sighted, but because he feared that
wearing glasses would lead to more teasing, he refused to admit that he needed them. It
would be nearly twenty years before he wore his first pair. One other fact that he took
great pains to hide was that he was a chronic bed-wetter.
When he reached his teens, much of the teasing stopped. He grew taller and stronger and
became known as an avid reader with an excellent memory. By the time he was sixteen, he
was the editor of the school newspaper and the political information officer, a role that
gave him additional prestige. While his political life developed, his social skills were
virtually non-existent, especially with females.
When he turned eighteen, Chikatilo applied to Moscow University to study law. He failed
the entrance exam, but blamed his rejection on his father's humiliating war record. As he
matured he became more confident with women, but several early attempts at sex failed
when he was unable to achieve an erection. Convinced that he was impotent, he became
obsessed with masturbation. Sometime later, while on national service, he attempted to
have sex with a woman who was not interested in his advances. As the woman struggled,
Chikatilo overpowered her only to release her shortly after when he realised that he had
ejaculated inside his pants. Inadvertently he had discovered that fear and violence excited
him more than the sexual act itself.
Some years after completing his national service, he moved to Russia in search of work.
He quickly found a job as a telephone engineer in a small town called
Rodionovo-Nesvetayevsky, just north of Rostov. When he had saved enough money, he
sent for his parents and his sister and moved them into his new home. Some years later his
sister Tatyana introduced him to a woman called Fayina. A relationship developed and
they were married in 1963. Fayina quickly learned that her new husband was not only
unable to consummate the marriage, he had no real interest in sex. She saw this as nothing
more than intense shyness and finally managed to coax him into having intercourse with
her. Eventually they had two children, a girl Lyudmilla, born in 1965 and a boy Yuri in
Not long after his marriage, Chikatilo successfully enrolled in a correspondence course
with Rostov Liberal Arts University and in 1971, gained degrees in Russian Literature,
Engineering and Marxism-Leninism. With his newfound skills, Chikatilo became a teacher
at Vocational school No. 32 in Novoshakhtinsk. Almost from the beginning, his teaching
career was a disaster. His abject shyness made it almost impossible for him to teach or
control his pupils. He was constantly humiliated and ridiculed, not only by his students but
also by other staff members who considered him "odd."
Despite his lack of success, Chikatilo stayed in his teaching job. He later admitted that he
found that the company of young children sexually aroused him. In the following years,
what began as simple voyeurism outside the school toilets had degenerated into
indecent assaults on both male and female students. When parents began to complain,
Chikatilo was forced to resign and move on to other schools. At one such school,
Chikatilo was put in charge of a boy's dormitory. As usual, his charges ignored him or
openly teased him. Some months later, after he was caught trying to fellate a sleeping boy,
he was attacked and beaten by several senior students. From that moment on, Chikatilo
carried a knife. At no time was he reported to the proper authorities, perhaps because
under the Soviet regime of the time, an indiscretion by a single teacher could reflect on the
In 1978, Chikatilo moved his family to Shakhty. Soon after, he bought the shack near the
river and lured his first victim. After being cleared of the murder of Lena Zakotnova,
Andrei Chikatilo continued teaching until he was made redundant in 1981. Unable to get
another teaching job he found employment as a supply clerk for the Rostovnerud, a local
industrial complex. The job entailed travel to other parts of the country to locate and
purchase supplies for the factory. He found that the periods away from home gave him
ample time to search for new victims. Six months later he killed again.
Larisa Tkachenko was completely different from the girls that Chikatilo was used to
dealing with. At seventeen she was older than the others and was also experienced in
sexual matters. A runaway from boarding school, Larisa had met her killer at a bus stop
outside of the Rostov public library. She was used to dating young soldiers and didn't
mind swapping sexual favours for a meal and a few drinks, so when Andrei Chikatilo
approached her with a similar offer, she went with him without hesitation. He took her to
a deserted stretch of woodland and, unable to contain himself, began tearing her clothes
off. As experienced as she was, Larisa panicked and tried to fend him off. Chikatilo
quickly overpowered her and beat her about the head with his fists.
As she screamed, he filled her mouth with dirt and strangled her. He then bit off one of her
nipples and ejaculated over her corpse. He would later tell police that he had "danced with
joy" around the body until he had settled down enough to cover the body with branches
and hide her clothes. She was found the next day.
Chikatilo was elated. While his first victim had left him frustrated and confused, the
second had given him an appetite that he found hard to satisfy. In June 1982, while on
another "business trip" to the town of Zaplavskaya, he killed thirteen-year-old Lyuba
Biryuk after following her from a bus stop. After a failed attempt at rape he produced a
knife and stabbed her repeatedly, including several wounds to her eyes. Because of the
warm summer conditions, her body was almost a skeleton when it was found just two
Over the next year, Chikatilo claimed six more victims, one in July, two in September and
one in December. The newest killings were slightly different, Two of the victims were
young males, a fact that was to cause great confusion for the investigating police. With
virtually no experience in serial murder, and serving under a regime that refused to admit
that such crimes were possible in the Soviet Union, the police began looking for two
separate offenders. What further confused the issue was that two of the victims had been
killed outside of the Rostov area. Even though the crime scenes and the manner of death
were strikingly similar, no links were established.
After killing another ten-year-old girl in December, Chikatilo did not kill for another six
months. His next victim was Laura Sarkisyan, a fifteen-year-old Armenian girl whose body
was never recovered until years later when Chikatilo confessed and directed police to her
grave. This shy and impotent man quickly learned how to choose his victims carefully. His
travels took him to many railway and bus stations where he was able to coerce young
vagrants of both sexes to go with him. Mostly it was a promise of food or similar treats
that lured them into the isolated tracts of forest that bordered most Russian towns. On
some occasions, the victims offered sexual favours in advance. Either way, once they went
with him they were doomed. An added advantage of preying on vagrants in Russia was
that nobody reported them missing because, officially, they did not exist. They only
became known when their bodies were found.
Before the summer was over Chikatilo had claimed three more victims. Lyuda Kutsyuba a
twenty-four-year-old female, an unidentified woman aged between 18 and 25 and a
seven-year-old boy, Igor Gudkov, who was savagely butchered.
By September 1983 the total number of victims had risen to fourteen, of which six had
been found. The central Moscow militia, concerned by the number of dead children that
were being reported by the local police, sent Major Mikhail Fetisov and his team to
Rostov to take over the investigation. Soon after his arrival, Fetisov reviewed the situation
and sent a scathing report to his superiors in Moscow criticising the ineptitude of the local
police and suggesting that all six murders were the work of a single sex-crazed killer.
Moscow headquarters reluctantly accepted his findings but fell short of calling the
perpetrator a "serial killer" as that was seen to be a purely western phenomenon and not
possible in Russian culture. A strange attitude considering that Rostov alone recorded
over four hundred homicides a year.
As most of the murders seemed to centre around the Rostov area, particularly Shakhty,
Fetisov and his deputy, Vladimir Kolyesnikov, decided to assemble a special squad that
would focus its investigation on that area. To lead the squad, Fetisov selected Victor
Burakov, an experienced forensic analyst who was considered by many to be the most
talented crime scene investigator in the department. Soon after the appointment, Burakov
and his team moved into a separate office in the militia headquarters building in Rostov. In
line with Soviet bureaucracy, the new sub-unit was given the ponderous title of "Division
of Especially Serious Crimes." As most of the bodies had been recovered from woodlands,
the case was known unofficially as the "Lesopolosa" or "Forest Strip killings."
Believing that the person responsible for the killings was abnormal, the team began to
search through the records of mental hospitals looking for anyone whose behaviour
patterns and history indicated an inclination towards crimes involving sex and violence.
Criminal records were also checked for known sexual offenders or anyone questioned in
relation to similar offences in the past. The task was long and arduous as each person that
matched the criteria had to be interviewed, have their movements at the time of the
offences checked and have blood samples taken for matching. The samples of semen taken
from the victims indicated that the killer had "Type AB" blood. If any of the suspects
matched, they were detained for further questioning, those that didn't were released.
In the absence of computers, the details of all the suspects interviewed were handwritten
on index cards and kept in boxes. One of the cards recorded that Andrei Romanovich
Chikatilo had been interviewed but was released when his blood type failed to provide a
match. Sometime after he was released, the police picked up a suspect acting suspiciously
near the Rostov streetcar depot and brought him in for questioning. The suspect, named
Shaburov, who was obviously retarded, soon confessed to stealing a car with four other
men. Not long after, he confessed that he and his friends had also killed several children.
His friends were then arrested and the four were questioned extensively for twenty-four
The four men, who had met at a school for the mentally retarded, readily confessed to
seven "Forest Strip" murders, even though they were unable to provide any details of the
victims or their locations. Several months later, when fresh murders were committed while
the suspects were still in custody, the police believed that they were dealing with a "gang
of madmen" and rounded up several other retarded young men for questioning. The
"questioning" was apparently brutal and unrelenting, resulting in the death of one of the
suspects with another committing suicide while in custody.
Eventually, as the murders continued, the "gang" theory was dropped and the boys
released. One other theory was that the killer worked as a driver for one of the many
factories in the area, which would explain how he was able to cover such large areas in a
short time. To check the theory, anyone who held a drivers licence and drove as part of
their job was checked. In all, over 150,000 people were interviewed before this line of
inquiry was also abandoned.
By September 1984, apart from establishing the blood type of the killer, the investigation
had failed to uncover any useable evidence. The fact that the blood type was shared by ten
percent of European men meant that it alone was of very little help unless they were able
to find someone to match it to. To make matters worse, while the police were struggling
to find an answer, the murders were accelerating at an alarming rate. From January to
September, fifteen new murders had been committed, eleven of them during the summer
In an effort to narrow down the possibilities, Burakov enlisted the aid of several
psychologists and sexual pathologists from the Rostov Medical Institute and asked them
to prepare a profile of the killer. Most of the specialists that were consulted refused to
assist the police on the basis that they did not have sufficient information on which to base
their analysis. Only one psychiatrist, Aleksandr Bukhanovsky, offered his help and agreed
to provide a profile of the "Forest Strip" killer. Bukhanovsky didn't have much to base his
analysis on. Obviously the killer was a sexual deviate, approximately 5'10" tall, 25-50
years old, a shoe size of 10 or more and had a common blood type. After studying the
police files, Bukhanovsky gave the opinion that the killer probably suffered from some
form of sexual inadequacy and brutalised his victims to compensate for it.
While the additional information provided another means of identification the killer would
first have to be caught. In order to facilitate that, Burakov arranged for additional men to
patrol the bus, tram and train stations. One such location that received more attention than
most was the bus station in Rostov. Not only was it the busiest in the district but it was
also the last known location of two of the victims. Aleksandr Zanosovsky, a local police
inspector with an intimate knowledge of the location was given the job of patrolling the
area. His task was to look for anyone acting suspiciously around other commuters,
especially young women and boys.
Towards the end of one of the first days of the observation, Zanosovsky noticed a
middle-aged man wearing glasses whom, although wandering aimlessly through the
crowd, was paying particular attention to young girls. After observing the man for some
time Zanosovsky approached him and asked for his identity papers. The man seemed
nervous when approached and told the inspector that he had been away on a business trip
and was on his way home. Zanosovsky scrutinised the documents, including a red card,
which identified the man as a freelance employee of the Department of Internal Affairs, a
division of the KGB. Finding that they were in order, the policeman handed back the
papers, apologised for the interruption and left. As he walked away, Zanosovsky had the
uneasy feeling that the man, Andrei Chikatilo was hiding something.
Several weeks later, Zanosovsky was again patrolling the bus station in company with
another police officer. Both men were in street clothes. Late in the afternoon, just as they
were about to finish their shift, Zanosovsky saw Chikatilo again. Alerting his partner to
keep his eye on the man, he moved closer to his quarry and sat near him and watched from
behind a newspaper. When Chikatilo moved, Zanosovsky and his partner followed. For
several hours they followed Chikatilo as he boarded several buses that travelled around the
district before returning to the bus station.
As they watched, Chikatilo approached women of different ages and attempted to engage
them in conversation. Often he was rebuffed but, unperturbed, continued to approach
others. The pursuit continued into restaurants, bars and back to the station. All the way,
Chikatilo only seemed to have one thing on his mind, talking to women. At one stage he
made himself comfortable in a chair and dozed off for two hours. When he woke he
resumed his previous activities, the police followed. Some time later a young woman sat
down next to him and engaged him in conversation. The talk seemed to go well as shortly
after, Chikatilo put his arm around the woman.
Finally she laid her head in his lap and Chikatilo slid his hand inside her blouse and fondled
her. The girl, who seemed intoxicated, didn't object. Chikatilo seemed flushed with
arousal. A few minutes later, the girl sat up and spoke harshly to him and soon after they
Zanosovsky could wait no longer and approached Chikatilo and again asked for his
papers. When he learned that he had been observed for some time and was under arrest,
Chikatilo was shocked and began to sweat profusely. Zanosovsky then asked to see the
contents of the man's briefcase. Chikatilo reluctantly agreed and opened it. It contained a
length of rope, a jar of Vaseline and a long-bladed knife.
Under normal circumstances, no Russian citizen can be held in custody for more than
seventy-two hours. In Chikatilo's case, the detectives needed additional time to check his
background, so decided to charge him with "harassing women in public places." This
minor charge only carried a maximum sentence of fifteen days imprisonment, but was
sufficient time to make further inquiries. However, shortly after checking his police files,
they discovered that Chikatilo was under investigation for the theft of a roll of linoleum
and a car battery from a factory where he worked as a supply clerk. In Russia, the charge
of stealing state property was considered a serious crime and meant that the investigators
would have the luxury of keeping him in jail for as many months as it took to check his
background in detail.
As his history unfolded, police learned of his penchant for children, particularly girls. They
uncovered the classroom incidents, his acts of voyeurism and the sexual assault of the boy
in the dormitory. Several people, who lived in the vicinity of his "secret" shack, reported
that he had used it to entertain prostitutes and spoke of his habit of stalking the corridors
of trains. The evidence seemed to indicate that he could be the killer they sought, until a
blood sample was taken from him and analysed. His blood type was found to be Type "A."
Had they taken samples of his sperm, hair or saliva, they would have found that his blood
type was actually Type "AB" as the "B" antigens are not present in the blood in sufficient
quantities to provide a positive match.
The only real evidence they had left were the contents of his briefcase and the police
report of his activities at the train stations. Incredibly, the knife and other items were lost
when a local police lieutenant mistakenly returned them to Chikatilo's home. Having
insufficient evidence to charge him for the murders, he was later charged with the stealing
offences and sentenced to one year's imprisonment and expelled from the Communist
party. In December 1984, after serving just three months of his original sentence, he was
released. Zanosovsky, still convinced that Chikatilo was the killer, was later demoted for
being "overly zealous in the performance of his duties."
After celebrating the New Year with his family, Chikatilo sought out a new job and was
soon employed in a locomotive factory in nearby Novocherkassk. As before, his new job
entailed travel. For the best part of a year Chikatilo refrained from killing. It wasn't until
during a business trip to Moscow, that he gave into his desires. On 1st August 1985, after
he completed his duties in the capital, he flew to Rostov where he made the acquaintance
of an eighteen-year-old mentally retarded girl on the train. He offered her some Vodka if
she would get off with him at a small station. She agreed and followed him into the woods
near the rail line.
Shortly after, she lay dead with thirty-eight stab wounds in her naked body. Chikatilo
completed his trip and went home. Later the same month after his return, he met a young
woman at the bus station in Shakhty who told him that she had nowhere to sleep. Offering
her lodgings in return for sexual favours, he led her into a wooded grove and attempted to
have sex with her but again could not sustain an erection. When she began to laugh at him,
he killed her and left her body in a field. It was his last murder for the year.
For Andrei Chikatilo, the time in jail had been a cleansing time. After having been arrested
and miraculously released, he was free to pursue the one thing that he desired most, young
innocent victims. While he bemoaned the loss of his status as a party member, his new job
opened up many new horizons that more than compensated for it. He spent most of 1986
travelling around the country on buying trips for his employer and celebrated his fiftieth
birthday on October 16. If he killed during that time, it did not come to the attention of the
investigation team. It wasn't until May 1987 during a trip to the town of Revda in the Ural
Mountains, that he killed a thirteen-year-old boy after luring him from the railway station.
In July another trip to Zaporozhye in the Ukraine resulted in the murder of another boy
that he had followed into the woods. The attack was so brutal that a part of his knife blade
broke off and was later found at the scene by police. The next trip to Leningrad in
September resulted in the death of yet another boy. While Chikatilo continued to travel
and kill, the police investigation was gaining momentum. In 1985, Issa Kostoyev, the
director of Moscow's Department for Violent Crime, unofficially called "The Killer
Department," had taken over the case and reorganised his investigators into three teams.
One group concentrated on Shakhty, another on Rostov and the third on Novoshakhtinsk.
His strategy was simple, investigate each murder systematically and focus on the areas
surrounding each one.
Anyone who had been convicted of a sexually motivated crime, including those still in
custody, was checked in great detail. All known homosexuals were rounded up and
questioned extensively. Sexual pathologists were asked to provide lists of their patients for
scrutiny, as were venereal disease clinicians. The latter were added after pathologists
found crab lice on one of the female victims. All railway workers, whether civilian or
military, were checked thoroughly for any discrepancy in their work habits and
movements. Every nightclub and pornographic video store in the three districts were put
under surveillance in the hope that the killer patronised one or more of them regularly.
Kostoyev left no stone unturned in his search for the killer, even to the point of
investigating any former police officers who had been dismissed for improper activities.
As the years passed, the investigators gleaned enough information to separate the "Forest
Belt" murders from the thousands of other similar occurrences. Slowly but surely, reports
of additional murders in surrounding districts filtered in. Two such murders were reported
from as far away as Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Originally the Tashkent militia
weren't going to include one of the victims because her body was so badly mutilated, they
thought she had been run over by a harvesting machine.
By December 1985, Burakov and Kostoyev had organised for all trains in the three
districts to be patrolled by plain-clothed militia and "druzhinniki," as the volunteer militia
were called. Their instructions were to stop and check the documents of anyone who
looked suspicious. In addition, Army helicopters were used to patrol the railway lines and
the adjoining forests from the air. This increased scrutiny may have been the reason why
Chikatilo ceased his activities for nearly two years. Whatever the reason, the investigators
were later embarrassed to learn that Chikatilo himself, in his capacity as a freelance
employer of the Department of Internal Affairs, had been assisting the militia to patrol the
trains looking for the "killer." Armed with the knowledge that the investigation centred
around only three areas, he resumed killing in areas far removed from them.
In April 1988, Chikatilo killed again. His latest victim was a thirty-year-old woman that he
had met on a commuter train near the town of Krasny-Sulin, where he was sent on
business with the local metals factory. After enticing her to a vacant lot to have sex, he
stabbed her repeatedly and disfigured her corpse. When her body was found in early April,
a single shoe print was clearly evident beside her body, the imprint was size 9-10.
During the next year Chikatilo killed eight more times. The attacks normally took place
while he was travelling around the country on business but one particular crime occurred
at his daughter's apartment in Shakhty. It had been empty since the daughter had divorced
her husband and moved back with her parents. After Chikatilo lured sixteen-year-old
Tatyana Ryzhova inside, he gave her vodka and seduced her. After stabbing her and
violating her body, he realised that he could not leave her body at the house. Taking a
kitchen knife, he decapitated her and sawed off her legs before wrapping her in rags and
articles of clothing. He then tied the bundles to a sled belonging to a neighbour and
dragged it through the streets to the area where he dumped her remains.
Another victim was killed while Chikatilo was on his way to his father's birthday party.
Seeing nineteen-year-old Yelena Varga at a bus stop, he offered to walk her home but
instead lured her into the woods and stabbed her. After cutting out her uterus and slicing
off part of her face, he wrapped the remains in her clothing and left for the party. The last
victim for the year was a ten-year-old boy that Chikatilo had met in a Rostov video shop.
He died of multiple stab wounds and was buried in Rostov cemetery by his killer.
When police recovered the bodies, many of them were missing body parts. Many females
were missing their uterus and nipples and the males had genitals and occasionally tongues
sliced or bitten off. The next murder did not take place until January 1990 with nine more
committed before November. In his last year of freedom, Chikatilo seemed to move away
from his usual preference for females, with seven of the nine victims being young boys
aged seven to sixteen. One of his last known victims was the oldest boy, Vadim
Tishchenko, whose body was found on November 3 near Rostov's Leskhoz railway
station, a location that had been under heavy scrutiny for months. Ironically, the day that it
wasn't patrolled, owing to a manpower shortage, was the day that Chikatilo struck.
After Tishchenko's body was found, a twenty-four hour surveillance of all train and bus
stations in the district was implemented. Police wearing night vision goggles observed
commuters looking for anyone that didn't fit. To entice the killer, several young attractive
policewomen, dressed in provocative clothing, walked the platforms and bus queues
hoping to attract attention. Another squad of police questioned the ticket sellers at the
various stations in the district, looking for the person who had sold Tishchenko his ticket,
the stub of which was found near his body.
Finally, an attendant at Shakhty station recognised the boy's picture and recalled that he
had bought the ticket in company with a tall neatly dressed grey-haired man who wore
glasses. The attendant also told police that her daughter had seen a similar man the year
before. He had been on a train talking to a young boy and she overheard the man trying to
talk the boy into getting off the train with him, but the boy had refused and run away. The
police asked the attendant if they could interview her daughter. She agreed and the
daughter later provided police with a detailed description of the man and told them that he
was a regular traveller on the trains and spent a lot of his time trying to pick up young
The net was closing in on Andrei Chikatilo but not before he took another victim.
Twenty-two-year-old Svetlana Korostik went with him to the woods near Leskhoz station
and was beaten, stabbed and mutilated. Chikatilo removed the tip of her tongue and both
nipples and ate them at the scene before he covered her naked body with leaves and
branches. As he returned to the station he saw four women and a man standing on the
platform. The man, Sergeant Igor Rybakov, a policeman attached to the "Forest Belt"
taskforce, noticed Chikatilo walking beside the platform wiping sweat from his face.
When he stepped closer, he noticed that the man had spots of blood on his cheek and
earlobe and wore a bandage on a finger of his right hand. He asked Chikatilo for his
identity papers, which revealed that he was a senior engineer in the Rostov locomotive
factory. He was about to ask more questions when a train arrived and Chikatilo insisted
that he be allowed to board it. Having no real reason to hold him, Rybakov allowed him to
leave and later filed a report of the incident.
When the body of Vadim Tishchenko was found, the investigators called for any reports
of persons acting suspiciously in the area. At that time, Rybakov's report was tabled and
police again focused on the man called Andrei Chikatilo. Chief Investigator Kostoyev
suggested that they check Chikatilo's whereabouts on May 14 1988, the day that one of
the victims, Alyosha Voronka was murdered in the city of Ilovaisk. After checking
Chikatilo's work records, they discovered that he had been in that city on business on the
same day. It was decided that a squad of plain-clothes police would follow Chikatilo and
try to catch him in the act.
On Tuesday, November 20 Chikatilo was at work. As his bandaged finger, which had been
bitten by one of his victims, was aching badly, he left work and went to a nearby clinic for
x-rays. After receiving treatment for the finger, which was broken, he went home. Shortly
after arriving home, he went out to buy beer. On the way he attempted to talk to a young
boy but was scared off when a woman approached. He walked further until he met
another boy that he engaged in conversation until the boy was called away by his mother.
As he continued on, three men in leather jackets approached him and identified themselves
as police officers. One of the men then handcuffed him and told him that he was under
arrest. He was transported to the office of Mikhail Fetisov at the regional headquarters of
the Department of Internal Affairs. Chikatilo, who had made no attempt to resist the
arrest, did not speak for the entire trip.
On the day that Chikatilo was arrested, he had with him a briefcase containing a knife, a
length of rope and a jar of Vaseline. They were exactly the same items that he had been
carrying the last time he had been apprehended six years earlier. Obviously when Chikatilo
left his house on the day that he was arrested, he had planned on picking up more than just
beer. A search of his apartment found twenty-three knives, a hammer and a pair of shoes,
that were later found to match the footprint next to the unidentified victim found in
For years the police had sought the notorious "Forest Belt" killer, convinced that they
were searching for an extremely violent and dangerous criminal. After the arrest however,
they had trouble believing that the gentle, softly spoken man that sat before them was
responsible for the brutal series of crimes that had struck fear into the hearts of over four
Soon after his arrest, Chikatilo was photographed and briefly interviewed before being
placed in a KGB isolation cell. The next day the interrogation started in earnest. Issa
Kostoyev was given the task of questioning the prisoner, but any hopes he had of an early
confession were dashed when Chikatilo refused to be led on any questions dealing with
rape and murder. He did, however, point out that he had previously been arrested and
jailed for a crime that he did not commit, the theft of the car battery. Not only did he
profess his innocence of any crime, he went to great pains to point out to Kostoyev that he
had already been questioned in relation to the "Forest Strip" murders and had been cleared
of any involvement.
One week after the interrogation began, Chikatilo wrote a letter addressed to the
Prosecutor General of Russia in which he stated: -
"I felt a kind of madness and ungovernablity in perverted sexual acts. I couldn't control my
actions, because from childhood I was unable to realise myself as a real man and a
complete human being."
While falling short of a true confession, the statement gave Kostoyev a valuable insight
into the mind of the man he was dealing with. The following day, Chikatilo confessed to
the sexual assaults on his former students. One day later in another letter to the Prosecutor
General, he wrote: -
"My inconsistent behaviour should not be misconstrued as an attempt to avoid
responsibility for any acts I have committed. One could argue that even after my arrest, I
was not fully aware of their dangerous and serious nature. My case is peculiar to me alone.
It is not fear of responsibility that makes me act this way, but my inner psychic and
nervous tension. I am prepared to give testimony about the crimes, but please do not
torment me with their details, for my psyche would not be able to bear it. It never entered
my mind to conceal anything from the investigation. Everything which I have done makes
me shudder. I only feel gratitude to the investigating bodies for having captured me."
By November 29, unable to break through the mental barrier that Chikatilo was hiding
behind, Kostoyev asked Dr. Bukhanovsky, the psychiatrist, to assist with the
interrogation. Bukhanovsky agreed to help on the understanding that any tapes or notes
that he took while interviewing the prisoner were for his personal use only and not to be
used as evidence. Kostoyev agreed and the interview began on November 30.
Bukhanovsky began the first session by assuring Chikatilo that, because he considered his
actions were caused by a mental disorder, he would not only be prepared to explain the
process in court, but would be prepared to explain to Chikatilo's family. After organising a
meeting between Chikatilo and his wife, during which the prisoner burst into tears,
Bukhanovsky turned to the subject of the murders. It wasn't long before Chikatilo began
to relate the true story of his involvement in the murders.
Later the same day it was Kostoyev's turn. From that time until December 5, Andrei
Chikatilo described in chilling detail how he had tracked, raped and brutally killed
thirty-four of the thirty-six victims whose murders he had been charged with. Two more
were solved at a later date. As the days progressed he continued to confess to additional
murders, detailing how he had raped, murdered and brutalised his victims, sometimes
removing body parts and eating them and drinking their blood. In all he described the
murders of fifty-two victims, mostly young children.
In the months following his confession, Chikatilo was transported across the country to
visit the scenes where he had committed the crimes. He was uncannily accurate, not only
in locating the dumpsites, but in his recall of times, dates and places, what the victims had
been wearing at the time and what knife he had used on them. On most occasions, he
demonstrated his method of attack, using a dummy, showing the detectives how he stood
to one side to avoid being splashed by blood. While on one such trip, Chikatilo
remembered yet another victim, a twenty-year-old Latvian girl that he had killed in 1984.
The final count, an astonishing fifty-three victims, making him one of the most prolific and
brutal serial-killers in recorded history.
The trial began on April 14, 1992. Chikatilo was led into the courtroom and locked inside
a specially designed cage, surrounded by armed guards. The reason for this additional
security measure was not so much to contain the prisoner but rather to prevent the
relatives and friends of the victims from approaching him. The judge appointed to the
case, Leonid Akubzhanov, opened the proceedings by reading out the list of indictments
against the accused. That process alone took two full days. The judge had earlier set a
precedent by allowing members of the press full access to the court, a move that was
unusual by Russian standards. The move eventually backfired on him when the press
printed stories publicly declaring Chikatilo as the murderer long before the evidence was
On April 16, the judge allowed Chikatilo to address the court. What followed was two
hours of rambling, maniacal monologue, seen by many as an attempt by the accused to
simulate madness. As the case continued, Chikatilo became more and more outrageous.
He constantly interjected and complained loudly about the rats and the "levels of
radiation" in his cell. At one point he removed his clothes and waved his penis at the
crowd shouting, "Look at this useless thing, what do you think I could do with that?" He
was later removed from the court in handcuffs.
Despite the interruptions the trial continued. So too did the outbursts. Chikatilo
complained that the judge was biased, as were the prosecution. He insisted that the judge's
female secretary be removed as she was inciting his lust. Sometime later he told the court
that he was pregnant and the guards had been hitting him in the stomach to "harm his
baby." Despite his pleas, he was judged competent to stand trial, but he became so
disruptive that most of the evidence was heard in his absence.
By mid July, the trial was drawing to a close. The final comments in the trial were those of
Marat Khabibulin, Chikatilo's defence attorney. The basis of his defence was that the
police had laid the charges based solely on his client's confession. He argued that there
was no material evidence linking Chikatilo with any of the crimes, including the knives,
which had never been proven as being the murder weapons. When Marat had concluded
his remarks, the judge asked Chikatilo if he wanted to address the court. Despite his
continual outbursts during the proceedings, Chikatilo refused to comment. With no further
evidence to consider, the judge announced that the court would adjourn for two months
for sentencing. As the judge stood to leave the courtroom a man lunged towards the cage
and threw a short iron bar at the prisoner, missing Chikatilo's head by a few inches. The
man, a brother of one of the victims was overpowered by guards and led away but was
The court reconvened on October 14 to a packed gallery. Chikatilo was led to his cage,
smiling in response to the shouting and jeering that erupted from the crowd. The judge
called for silence and began to read the verdict. As he read, Chikatilo constantly
interrupted until he was led away, only to be brought back to hear the rest of the verdict.
Curiously at one point, the judge agreed with one of Chikatilo's objections when he stated
that it was the refusal of the Soviet Union to acknowledge that such crimes existed that
had contributed to Chikatilo's years of immunity.
On October 15, 1992, Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo was found guilty of fifty-two counts
of murder, one charge having been dropped owing to insufficient evidence. Chikatilo was
then removed from his cage and bought forward to stand before the judge to receive his
sentence. As fifty-two individual death sentences were handed down, and the crowd
cheered their approval, the last words of the trial were spoken by the accused when he
turned to the judge and shouted, "Fraud! I'm not going to listen to your lies!" before he
was forcibly removed.
Sixteen months later on February 14, 1994, Andrei Chikatilo, the man referred to as "The
Butcher of Rostov" and "Russia's Hannibal Lecter," was executed by a single shot to the
back of the neck.