The Butcher: INCREDIBLE STORY OF THE BRUTAL MASS MURDERER FACING EXECUTION THIS WEEK; Mikhail was shot twice then stabbed with the same knife used to kill his daughter. The blade was left rammed in his mouth. His wife and her sister were shot dead as they cowered beneath a kitchen table. The Butcher had wiped out a whole family.
An informant trawling bars had picked up a tip about a man with an unlicensed gun, and it was Inspector Mikhail Balokh's job to follow it up.
As he led his seven officers towards the target block of flats, Balokh reflected on the previous four months' gruelling detective work which had achieved next to nothing.
A madman was on the loose. In just 20 weeks he had murdered 43 men, women and children, many of them brutally mutilated and raped. He had burned down houses and shot innocent bystanders. Children had been axed to death and suffocated after hearing the screams of their parents as they were executed.
The killer had hacked off fingers to get at wedding rings and pulled out his victims' gold teeth.
The winter murders followed a spate in the summer six years earlier when he killed nine people in three months. In total 52 people had been murdered in cold blood and without reason.
His trail of carnage had no apparent links and the victims were killed across the breadth of Ukraine, a former Soviet state about the same size as France.
Police were under huge public and political pressure to find the killer, but had little to go on because he killed all the witnesses. Now, just after 7pm on Easter Sunday, April 14 1996, Balokh rapped on the front door of the tiny one-bedroomed flat, No37, Block 70 on John the Baptist Street in the garrison town of Yavoriv. It was answered by Anatoly Onoprienko: 39, small but well-built, wearing a garish green shellsuit, his short-cropped red hair losing its battle with baldness.
Onoprienko had expected the callers to be his lover, hairdresser Anna Kozak, and her two children, back from an Easter visit to relatives.
But he showed not a flicker of surprise as he calmly ushered the unexpected guests into his sitting room, decorated with a bizarre mural of a forest scene.
An hour later, after talking to the suspect and looking round the flat, Balokh had seen and heard enough. As Onoprienko reached into a cupboard pretending to fetch his identity documents - in fact he was grabbing a gun - the handcuffs were snapped on his wrists.
The reign of carnage that cost 52 lives and terrified a nation was over. The Butcher was under lock and key.
Today, after a four-month trial, Onoprienko is in jail awaiting the verdict of the panel of five judges. The verdict is expected this week. Few doubt that it will be guilty.
And few doubt that, just as he cold-bloodedly executed his 52 victims, Onoprienko himself will face summary execution with a bullet to the back of the head.
His death will be the final act in a killing spree that began in June 1989, when Onoprienko
and his friend Sergei Rogosin were returning from selling cherries in Russia. In the village of Synelkove they spotted a car towing a trailer parked in a lay-by.
Onoprienko pulled over in front of the car, grabbed his Winchester hunting rifle with night vision sights, persuaded driver Alexander Melnik to wind down his window and blasted him and his wife Ludmilla, both aged 31, to death. He drove the bodies to a nearby wood, where he buried them in a shallow grave and set fire to their car.
Just over a month later Onoprienko and Rogosin were again away selling fruit when they spotted a Lada 8 parked by the roadside. Polish couple Victor and Anna Wasyluks were taking a rest on their way home. Onoprienko shot them dead and stole perfume, passports and 30 roubles.
The last murders of the first spate were the most shocking. A family of five were wiped out and for the first time Onoprienko killed a child - 11-year-old Sasha Podolyak.
Onoprienko and Rogosin were coming back from Odessa when they spotted a beige Lada on the outskirts of Melytopol. Onoprienko knocked on the window but driver Yevgeny Podolyak, 35, seeing Onoprienko's gun, reached down and pulled a gun himself.
The killer responded by squeezing the trigger and killing Podolyak in front of his son and his wife's three sisters, Valentina, 27, Paula, 25, and Lena, 22. As he dragged the bodies to a nearby ditch he noticed the youngest woman twitch, so he finished her off with a knife. He then covered the bodies with their own clothes from an emptied suitcase, poured petrol over them and set them alight.
Onoprienko now claims that after the first group of murders he tried to kill himself. He says: "After the last murder in 1989 I tried to commit suicide. I put a gun to my temple but it seemed that the bullet would only wound me and not kill me."
He spent the next six years travelling Eastern Europe, sleeping in deserted barns by night and stealing by day. By 1995 he was back in the Ukraine, and in October he committed the crime that was to begin his next killing spree - he stole a shotgun.
He watched a small cottage in Narodici till Alexander Kushnir, head of the local council's transport department, went out. Kushnir hunted and Onoprienko knew he owned a shotgun. When Kushnir left, Onoprienko broke into the house and stole the TOZ 33E shotgun, an ammunition belt and a hunting knife. He cut off barrels and butt to reduce the size and increase its lethal power.
The theft was reported but local police failed to thoroughly examine the crime - a mistake that cost 43 lives.
Mikhail Zadoyany, 50-year-old retired head of the Ukrainian criminal police who organised the hunt for Onoprienko said: "If that crime had been properly investigated he could have been caught before he killed."
But on November 1 the murder spree began with the brutal killing of 70- year-old pensioner Maria Parashchuk in the southern seaport of Odessa. She returned to her flat to find Onoprienko inside and about to leave after filling a bag with food. He blasted the frail old woman away with two rounds from the stolen shotgun and then set fire to her flat.
Four days later he returned to Malyn and committed the first of his 11 murders in the small market town where he had been brought up. Garage boss Alexander Svetlovski, 34, was selling jewellery to office clerk Galina Gryshchenko, 38, as they sat in his car. Onoprienko demanded the cash and when Svetlovski refused he opened fire, killing Galina instantly and maiming the man. He was finished off with the hunting knife.
Onoprienko drove the car into nearby woods, found a gas cylinder in the boot and blew it up. He escaped with $150 in cash and a few gold chains and rings.
For more than a month Onoprienko lay low, then on Christmas Eve 1995 he struck with devastating effect - wiping out a family of four, including a baby just three months old.
Vadim Zaichenko, 27, and his wife Julia, 25, were at their newly-built home in the woods outside Malyn, planning a house-warming party. Shortly before midnight the prowling Onoprienko spotted Vadim at the window, blasted him in the face and chest with his shotgun and forced his way into the house.
Julia knelt on the floor, begging for mercy, but Onoprienko stabbed her five times. He hacked off the couple's fingers for their wedding rings, ripped out Julia's ruby-studded earrings and tore off her gold crucifix.
As he scoured the house for more to steal, Onoprienko found children Boris, aged three, and baby Oleg, both asleep. He strangled both until they suffocated, then set fire to the house with a gas cylinder.
THE massacre caused mass panic among the 30,000 population of Malyn, but police treated it as an isolated incident, not yet making the link.
That was to change just a week later, on New Year's Eve. Onoprienko heard that a fortune teller 320 miles away in the tiny village of Bratkovychy knew who the killer was and was going to inform police. He went there determined to find and kill her.
He wandered round the village for two hours asking about her among the locals, including 33-year-old forester Mikhail Malynovski, who had been drinking after work and swore at Onoprienko, saying the woman did not exist.
That was a mistake, and it would be his last. Onoprienko pulled out his gun and shot him dead.
Then he spotted Pyotr Krychkovski, 27, and his wife Maria, 23, hanging curtains at their new home on the village outskirts. He blasted Pyotr through the head and executed Maria as she rushed to her husband. Under the kitchen table he found Lesya, one of Maria's 18-year- old twin sisters. She was shot dead and seconds later the other twin, Myroslava, met the same end.
Police immediately realised that the Malyn and Bratkovychy massacres were the work of the same man, but still had little to go on. Chief investigator Mikhail Zadoyany says: "He left few clues at the scene. Because it was not the work of a gang and there was no apparent motive we knew it was going to be incredibly difficult to find him."
On January 5, Christmas Eve in the Orthodox Church calendar, Onoprienko travelled 800 miles by train to the town of Energodar. There, businessman Sergei Odintsov, 37, and bank clerk Tamara Dolinina, 32, were cuddling up trying to keep warm inside his car on a canal bank.
The lovers had popped open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate Christmas when Onoprienko spotted them. He stared at the man for two seconds before pulling out his gun and shooting him in the face. Terrified Tamara ran off but superfit Onoprienko barely broke sweat before catching her. He undressed her, shot her in the head and raped her.
Onoprienko bundled the bodies into their car boot and drove off. He had barely travelled a mile when he spotted police officer Alexander Rybalko, 35, walking with friend Sergei Garmash, 35. He stopped the car and killed them both.
As he left the scene he spotted soldier Victor Kasayev, 35. Fearing he could be a witness, Onoprienko pulled over and shot him dead. Five miles further down the road he strolled over to another parked car and opened fire at driver Anatoly Savitsky, 45. He dragged his body from the car and dumped him with the lovers in the car boot. He then drove off down a country lane and set fire to the car. As he was leaving he noticed milkmaid Nadezhda Kochergina, 45, on her way to work - another possible witness, so he shot her dead.
The murders sent Ukraine into a frenzy of fear. Police realised that they were the work of the serial killer and chief investigator Mikhail Zadoyany went straight to the scene.
An arrest at that stage would have prevented 24 deaths and the worst single massacre - three generations of one family, once again in the village of Bratkovychy.
Onoprienko was told there was a rich priest in the area and immediately thought he would be an ideal target for a lucrative robbery. Finding no such person existed he turned to a more familiar target - an isolated family home.
Just after midnight on January 17, Onoprienko used a chisel to prise open the door. Pensioner Vladimir Pilat , 62, was the first to be shot when he went to investigate the noise. Daughter-in-law Lesya, 26, was next when she awoke after the shot and then her six-year-old son Vladimir was blasted away. The boy's father, factory worker Oleg, 27, was next and finally he found grandmother Olga, 60, cowering beneath her bed. Onoprienko ransacked the house and set it on fire.
Then he spotted railway worker Galina Kondzyola, 29, and 55-year-old Stepan Zakharko walking near the house. He shot both of them dead and left them in the snow.
The killings escalated fear to blind panic. Families began to move away and those that remained built up huge security around their homes.
The police and army set up six checkpoints on the roads leading into Bratkovychy and 250 soldiers were delegated to guard the town 24 hours a day.
But 13 days later Onoprienko struck again, this time in the railway town of Fastov, 90 miles south of Kiev. He tried to hijack a car but driver Sergei Zaghranichny, 31, pulled into a nearby yard and grabbed a spade. Onoprienko followed him and shot him.
As he fired, nurse Svetlana Marusina, 29, and her boys Boris, seven and Denis, six, walked out of their house. He shot all three, killing Boris and his mother instantly. Then he beat Sergei to death with the spade as he lay injured from the first bullet, and finished little Denis off with the same spade. Next, Onoprienko turned his attentions to the town of Olevsk, where he killed sports centre boss Anatoly Dubchak, 32, his accountant wife Julia and their daughter Victoria. He shot Anatoly as he walked outside to fill a coal bucket, went into the house and raped Julia, then beat her to death with a hammer.
Upstairs he found Victoria asleep and smashed her repeatedly about the head with the same hammer. Such was the ferocity of the attack that fragments of Victoria's skull were found scattered across the hallway and into her parents' bedroom.
THE next victims followed just six days later, on February 27. First came a bungled mugging which ended in the death of father-of-three ambulance driver Victor Gudz. He was walking home, and when he refused to hand over money Onoprienko shot him dead.
The killer then spotted a newly-built house belonging to Sergey Bondarchuk, his wife Galina and their children Valery, nine, and Tatiana, seven. Onoprienko threw a stone through the front room window. Bondarchuk came out of the house carrying an axe, but didn't stand a chance when Onoprienko opened fire and killed him.
He then went into the house and shot Galina. Upstairs he found the children sleeping in the same room and, using their father's axe, he hacked Tatiana to death.
In the next bed Valery screamed so much during his sister's murder that his vocal chords snapped. When Onoprienko turned to kill him with the axe, there were no more screams. Just silence.
Sixteen days later, 20 miles away in the town of Ovruch, he killed former fighter pilot Polyslav Tselko. The high-flying 28-year-old was now making a living heading the local enterprise council. By most standards he was well-off, and had his own car. This was sufficient to lure Onoprienko to his house.
The killer spotted the car and started trying to break in when Tselko heard him and rushed out with a knife. Onoprienko, prepared as ever, pulled out his gun and shot him in his front garden.
A week later Onoprienko left his girlfriend Anna Kozak's flat in Yavoriv to commit his last crime. He took the train to the town of Krasne, 100 miles away, where he caught a bus to Buzk, a small town off the main road from Kiev to the medieval town of Lvov. After prowling the streets and waiting for darkness, he targeted the home of church organist Mikhail Novosad, 30, his hotel worker wife Galina, also 30, her sister Irina, a 26-year-old who suffered from chronic speech problems, and the couple's 10-year-old daughter, Ludmila.
The killer spotted Mikhail Novosad through his front window leaning on his TV set. Onoprienko blasted him through the window with his sawn-off shot gun, hitting him in the chest, then fired two shots through the front door, one of which hit Novosad again.
He forced his way through the front door and blasted Galina, who had rushed to the door when she heard her husband's cries. Irina was cowering in fear under the kitchen table when he shot her through the head. He then turned to the young girl, asleep in her room downstairs. Grabbing a six-inch knife from the kitchen, he stabbed her through the chest and left her to bleed to death.
Mikhail Novosad remained clinging to life despite being hit twice and hearing his family being massacred. He told Onoprienko there was money hidden under the floorboards and begged for his life. Onoprienko's response was to slash his throat with the knife that killed his daughter, then ram the blade into his mouth.
Police who filmed the crime scene were sickened by what they saw.
Police Inspector Alexander Ivshchenko says: "What we saw was beyond words. An entire family had horrifically and systematically been wiped out. The image of that house will remain with me for ever and the stench was overpowering."
A week after his arrest, Onoprienko was taken in handcuffs back to Buzk. The police gave him a cardboard gun to re-enact the horrific murder. Clothes stuffed with paper were used to create dummies of the family while he showed how he systematically massacred them. Hundreds of officers were
drafted in to hold back villagers who realised that the killer was once again in their midst. Pavlo Novosad, Mikhail's brother, said: "He didn't deserve to be alive. There is no point in the charade and expense of a trial, he should just be given to the people. See what they would do with him."
Nevertheless, more than two years after his confession, Onoprienko did go on trial.
He watched from the courtroom cage in which he was held, co-operating as and when he chose while the court went through the 99 volumes of evidence. After the verdict, though Ukraine has a moratorium on capital punishment, senior Government figures say it would be unthinkable for Onoprienko not to be executed.
President Leonid Kuchma says: "As a human being I cannot see any punishment for him other than death." Meanwhile police are still analysing why he carried out the murders in the hope that it will help them track down serial killers in the future. In interviews with senior Ministry of Internal Affairs official Constantin Stoghniy, Onoprienko talked of voices inside his head that told him to kill, and said he was a "superbeing". He claimed he was able to silence a crazed dog with the power of his mind and that he had psychic powers.
Stoghniy says: "He seemed convinced of his powers, but I served in the Afghan war and saw many horrific things and lots of bastards, and he made no big impression on me. If you met him in the street you would never guess at his criminal life.
"He showed no remorse to his victims and discussed all his crimes dispassionately."
Onoprienko himself describes the killings as an "experiment". He says: "In 1995 I was forced to kill again by outside forces. I was ordered not to realise what I was doing and in the process I saw it wasn't me carrying out the killings. I couldn't see the point of killing just a for a few pennies, because I know plenty of stupid people I could kill with joy. There is only one thing I can tell people and that is that they suffered.
"I think it was a very strong psychological experiment and I would fit this role so much, so well, that I still think of myself as some kind of administrator of some serious tasks. To kill your own son when you know it was you that gave him life is easy. To kill an innocent child is very hard."
In the interview there was no reference to another compelling theory on Onoprienko's motives. Mikhail Zadoyany believes there is a religious theme to the last 40 murders. Many took place on religious festivals like Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and Orthodox Christmas Eve. Zadoyany says: "There is no proof that he did follow this pattern, but it is too much of a coincidence. So many of the murders were carried out on or around these religious days."
But only Onoprienko knows the real reasons he killed, and they will go with him to the grave.
PICTURE RESEARCH AND ORIGINAL PHOTOS BY GARETH WYN JONES IN THE UKRAINE