In summer 2007 a spate of killings shocked and terrified locals in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. Most of the victims were killed by vicious hammer blows to the head; some were also brutally disfigured. But it wasn’t until a ninth murder – that of a 14-year-old boy – that police got the lead they needed: witness sketches of the attackers from the murdered boy’s friend. The cops didn’t know it then, but the sketches depicted Viktor Sayenko and Igor Suprunyuk. The shocking thing? They were just teenagers themselves.
So just who are Viktor Sayenko and Igor Suprunyuk? And what drove them to attack and kill seemingly random strangers? The two boys were at school together and came from relatively well-off, influential families; indeed, Sayenko’s father was a lawyer and later represented him in court.
In fact, it was a mutual fear of heights that brought the pair, then aged 14, closer together. And to fight their vertigo the boys decided to dangle themselves from a 14-story balcony for hours at a time, which apparently helped them to deal with their phobia.
Meanwhile, the pair were at school with their future accomplice, Alexander Hanzha, who happened to have a phobia of blood. Suprunyuk suggested to Hanzha that he could combat his fears in the same way he’d tackled his vertigo – and so the three boys nailed an innocent kitten to a homemade wooden cross before shooting it dead.
The disturbed trio also captured wild dogs before venturing into nearby woods and hanging them from trees. Sickeningly, the boys documented their crimes by taking photos, fashioning swastikas in blood and performing Nazi salutes for the camera.
After leaving school, then, the trio made ends meet in any way they could. Hanzha spent time as a pastry chef and laborer, while Sayenko worked as a security guard. Suprunyuk, meanwhile, while technically unemployed, earned a crust as an unlicensed taxi driver.
And it was from inside his illegal taxi that Suprunyuk started to ramp up his crimes. In the months leading up to the string of murders, he – along with Hanzha and Sayenko – started picking up, and then robbing, passengers. The boys’ first murder, however, didn’t take place inside a vehicle.
On June 25, 2007, Yekaterina Ilchenko was attacked out of nowhere. After having tea at a friend’s place, she crossed paths with Sayenko and Suprunyuk, then aged 19, while walking home. Without provocation, Suprunyuk then struck her in the skull with a hammer he was carrying. Ilchenko’s lifeless body was found later by her mother.
Ilchenko’s despicable murder was, sadly, by no means a one-off event. It seems that it sparked something sickening in the pair, as within 60 minutes of Ilchenko’s attack, Sayenko and Suprunyuk had killed Roman Tatarevich while he was napping on a bench. The victim’s head was bludgeoned so fiercely that it was impossible to recognize him.
The pair’s killing spree then intensified; the following week, two more people were found dead in a nearby town. Then, on July 6, 2007, three more bodies turned up – and unbeknown to the killers, one of their random victims was a mom of three with a disabled husband.
And on July 7, the very next day, Sayenko and Suprunyuk carried out their next attack – on two 14-year-old boys who were out fishing. One, Andrei Sidyuk, was killed; the other, Vadim Lyakhov, fled and escaped.
The terrified young boy went straight to the police, but officers initially arrested him in connection with his friend’s death. The police later, however, realized his innocence and concluded that this latest killing was in fact related to other recent bloodbaths. Furthermore, Lyakhov was able to cooperate with law enforcement officers by drawing sketches of his attackers.
But as police continued their investigations, Sayenko and Suprunyuk continued their killings. Sergei Yatzenko, a 48-year-old throat cancer survivor, was their next victim. On July 12 he went missing while out riding his motorbike; his mutilated and decomposing corpse was found four days later. There was, however, something different about this murder.
Between July 14 and July 16 two fresh bodies were found daily. One belonged to Natalia Mamarchuk, who on July 14 had been riding her moped through woods near the village of Diyovka. The two killers managed to knock her to the ground before bludgeoning her to death.
But Sayenko and Suprunyuk, who sped off on Mamarchuk’s scooter, had been spotted by two children hiding in a tent nearby. Moreover, the kids’ detailed description of the attackers matched 14-year-old Lyakhov’s earlier sketches, which for the police was something of a breakthrough.
Investigators subsequently circulated the sketches, and records of the victims’ stolen property, to local pawn shops. And while the police tried to search for evidence in secret – indeed, the murders were officially kept hush-hush – the community was, by this point, already terrified by the rumored killings.
The tactics of the police worked, though, for on July 23 Suprunyuk was located in a pawn shop trying to sell a victim’s cell phone. Law enforcement officers, who traced the cell, were led directly to Suprunyuk as well as Sayenko. Hanzha, meanwhile, was later captured at home; he hadn’t killed any of the victims, but he had robbed them.
Between them, the trio were charged on 29 counts, including 21 murders. All three confessed to their crimes, too, though Suprunyuk later withdrew his account and pleaded not guilty. Their trial, which began in June 2008, revealed more than 300 photos and two videos that the accused had shot while carrying out their heinous crimes.
One of the gruesome videos, later leaked online, documented Yatzenko’s brutal killing – which involved him being hit with a hammer over and over again. He can be seen struggling in and out of consciousness.
The video’s leak was, perhaps, part of the murderers’ plans. Indeed, while the crimes appear on the surface to have been motiveless, one of Suprunyuk’s classmates suggested that the killer was in contact with an unknown foreign web user who agreed to pay vast sums of money for “snuff” videos. The theory was rejected by detectives, however, who believed that the killers simply carried out their crimes for “fun.”
Suprunyuk, who was convicted of 21 murders, and Sayenko, who was convicted of 18, are currently serving life sentences. Hanzha, meanwhile, was given nine years, as he didn’t take part in the actual murders. The “Dnepropetrovsk maniacs,” as they’re referred to by the media, will go down in history as among the world’s most notorious serial killers.