Mikhail Popkov found out that one his victims was a music teacher when his young daughter told him her school was collecting money for a funeral.
“She asked me for money for the funeral fund, and I gave it to her,” Popkov allegedly confessed to investigators.
“The Werewolf,” as Popkov is known, is suspected of killing more than 80 women over 18 years. Popkov worked as a police officer in Angarsk, Irkutsk Oblast, was sentenced to life in prison for 22 murders in 2015. Dozens of his shocking confessions to police were revealed in the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, after written confessions were allegedly leaked to the paper ahead of court proceedings.
The investigation tracked Popkov's murders back to 1992, when he allegedly found out about his wife cheating on him with a colleague. The confessions say he became compulsively controlling, constantly reminding her about the affair. He went for his first kill just months later, motivated by a deep and abiding hatred of women who didn't fear him.
"My victims were women who walked the streets at night alone, without men, and not sober, who they behaved thoughtlessly, carelessly, not afraid to engage in a conversation with me, sit in the car, and then go for a drive in search of adventure, just for fun," he said.
He'd have sex with them, and then decide whether to murder them, according to the confessions.
“In this way, not all women became victims, but women of certain negative behavior, and I had a desire to teach and punish them,” he said. “So that others would not behave in such a way and so that they would be afraid.”
In January, prosecutors said Popkov had been charged with 47 new murders, but that he’d confessed to as many as 59 more than the 22 he’d already been convicted of. The victims ranged in age from 17 to 38.
“The period of his murders also has changed,” Irkutsk Investigative Committee spokeswoman Karina Golovacheva said at the time. “He was killing women from 1992 to 2010, so he did not stop in 2000.”
In his confession, the former police officer admitted that he’d menaced women on the streets of Irkutsk in his cop clothes.
“I was in uniform. I decided to stop and give a woman a ride, I frequently did that before,” he said. “The woman began talking to me, I offered to give her a lift, she agreed... That same morning, I drove the head of the criminal investigation to the murder scene.”
He was able to kill his victims and observe the investigations from his official post. Popkov even confessed to taking weapons from the police evidence storage to help with his dirty deeds.
But even the methodical killer slipped up on occasion. Once, Popkov realized that a commemorative chain he’d kept wasn’t around his neck anymore when he returned from the scene of a double homicide.
“I realized that I lost it in a forest glade when I killed two women,” he said. “I realized that I would absolutely be identified by the lost token, and experienced the greatest stress. I realized that I should return to the scene of the crime, if the police or the prosecutor's office did not do so yet.”
He found his lost necklace quickly, but saw that one of the women was still breathing.
“I was again shocked by the fact that she was alive. I beat her to death with a shovel,” he confessed.
And Popkov had no plans of getting caught. It was science that finally put an end to his evil deeds.
“I couldn’t predict DNA tests,” he told a Komsomolskaya Pravda correspondent in a jailhouse interview. “I was born in the wrong century.”
When he pleaded guilty to the two dozen earlier murder charges, the judge asked Popkov how many murders were under his belt in total. The bloodthirsty killer shrugged.
“I can't say exactly,” he said. “I didn't write them down.”