Known as one of the worst serial killers of all time, Andrei Chikatilo roamed the streets of Rostov-on-Don for nearly 12 years, killing, sexually assaulting, and mutilating at least 52 women and children.
During the hunt for the “Rostov Ripper”, there were hidden cameras at train stations and undercover policewomen dressed as runaways. Other undercover officers would dress as rail workers and mushroom pickers.
Although the efforts to catch the killer resulted in the arrest of more than 200 rapists and dozens of murderers, this was a somewhat frustrating achievement as none of the criminals apprehended had been the man they really wanted, with the former senior investigator Amurkhan Yandiev saying, “Nobody connected to this case has anything to boast about.”
But on November 19, 1990, the investigators made a promising breakthrough. A policeman who was patrolling the train station saw Chikatilo walk from the woods before stopping to clean his boots and coat in a puddle. He also noticed there was a smear of blood on his cheek and what appeared to be a deep cut on his finger.
After Chikatilo was arrested, the killer not only admitted to the 36 murders which were known to the police but also described 17 more that they were unaware of. In Chikatilo’s words, “I was like a crazed wolf. (I) just turned into a beast, into a wild animal.”
During a series of court appearances, Chikatilo was kept locked in an iron cage to keep him safe as the distraught relatives of victims threw themselves at the guards in an attempt to get their revenge.
Paulina Ishutina, the mother of one of Chikatilo’s victims, said, “Why bother trying him? If they gave him to me, I’d tear him apart. I’d gouge out his eyes and cut him up. I’d do everything to him that he did to my daughter.” Adding emotionally, “My daughter had 46 knife wounds, her womb was cut out. Why did he do that? What did he need with it? How can you torment someone like that?”