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Mikhail Viktorovich Popkov, AKA The Werewolf of Siberia and The Angarsk Maniac, (born 7 March 1964) is a Russian serial killer and rapist. He has been convicted of 78 murders, although his self-professed victim count is 83.
Popkov, a former police officer, would dress up in his old uniform and approach his victims, usually prostitutes, drunk women or other people Popkov considered immoral. He would offer them a free ride so they got in his car, where he would rape them before killing them. The murders were committed with instruments such as knives, axes, baseball bats and screwdrivers, leaving the bodies so badly mutilated that the killer was dubbed "the werewolf of Siberia" by the press. Popkov was motivated by his suspicion that his wife was cheating on him, which lead him to view all women as immoral.
Despite extensive inquiries and testimony from two women who survived Popkov's attacks, his identity remained a secret for two decades until 2012. In that year investigators discovered tracks from a Lada 4x4 at several of the crime scenes. As the Lada 4x4 is primarily used by police officers, a DNA search of all current and former officers in the region was carried out. Popkov's DNA was matched to the scene and he was arrested.
In January 2015 Popkov was sentenced to life imprisonment for 22 counts of murder. Two years later he confessed to 59 additional murders, bringing the total victim count to 81 and making Popkov the most prolific serial killer in Russian history, surpassing even Andrei Chikatilo and Alexander Pichushkin. Police were unable to obtain evidence for three of these killings but he was convicted on the other 56 and received a second life sentence. In 2020 he confessed to yet more killings, bringing the total victim count to 83.
Mikhail Popkov was born on March 7, 1964 in Russia. He worked as a policeman before later becoming a security guard. He has a wife and a daughter. His wife was also in the police and provided an alibi for Popkov several times. It has been speculated that Popkov had been targeting women who resembled his reportedly alcoholic mother who abused him in his childhood.
From 1992 to 2000, Popkov is suspected of murdering up to 29 women. He would pick up slightly intoxicated women who were just leaving bars or parties, using his police car and uniform to gain the victims' trust in some of the murders. Popkov would then drive them to the forest where he raped and murdered them.
The victims were reportedly axed, stabbed, or strangled to death. One of the victims was decapitated and another's heart had been ripped out. He would rape the victims after they were deceased as well.
One of Popkov's victims survived his attack and later identified a photo of him. However, police chose to believe Popkov's wife, who had provided an alibi. Popkov claimed he stopped killing when he became impotent and attracted syphilis. He had been labeled "The Wednesday Murderer" by police, referring to the day when many of the bodies were found.
He was arrested on June 23, 2012 when he went to Vladivostok to buy a car after having his DNA sampled, along with 3,500 other police officers. He was suspected of killing at least 29 women, 25 of whom were aged 19 to 28 and four who were aged 35 to 40. All of the victims were residents of Angarsk, Irkutsk Oblast. He confessed to 24 murders and was later charged with them on October 31, 2013.
At the questioning Mikhail Popkov said he stopped after a sexually transmitted disease left him impotent and he lost the will to rape and kill.