Russian serial killer Serhiy Tkach raped and murdered at least 37 women and girls in Ukraine from 1980 to 2005. And then one girl married him.
In 2005, a funeral was underway in a small town in Ukraine. Inside the casket was the body of a nine-year-old girl. As the girl’s friends looked around at the faces of the visiting mourners, they saw something that must have made their blood run cold.
There he was, the man they had seen speaking to the girl just before her death. One of the children immediately told their parents. The man, realizing what was going on, rushed home.
Hours later, the police showed up to arrest that man: Serhiy Tkach, the “Pologovsky Maniac” serial killer who had killed not only that nine-year-old, but more than 35 other women and girls in Ukraine between 1980 and 2005.
And when his murders ended, a girl who could easily have been one of his victims fell for him and opened a bizarre new chapter in his life.
Before The Bloodshed
Little is known for certain about Serhiy Tkach’s early life. We do know that he was born in the Soviet city of Kiselyovsk on Sept. 12, 1952. We know that he was married several times and that all of the relationships ended due largely to his cruel behavior and heavy drinking. And we know that he worked as a criminal investigator for the police, conducting forensic exhumations.
In 1979, however, he was fired for falsifying evidence and forced to eke out a living working odd jobs for a time. But in 1982, he moved to Ukraine, where he managed to get another job working for the police there.
And it was then that the prime years of his murders began.
We don’t know for sure why Serhiy Tkach began killing. He has given different explanations to different news sources. He’s claimed that he was inspired by being rejected by women as a young man and has also said that he simply wanted to compete with other serial killers and outdo their victim totals.
Whatever his motives, Tkach’s experience with the police gave him some of the knowledge he needed to throw investigators off of his trail. For example, in several of his crimes, he lured the victims to an area near railroad tracks that had been freshly treated with tar. After killing the women, he escaped along the tracks, knowing it would throw the police dogs’ sense of smell off.
And it’s precisely knowledge like this that helped Serhiy Tkach’s reign of terror last as long as it did.
Serhiy Tkach’s Murders
For more than 20 years, Serhiy Tkach stalked the streets of Ukraine and Crimea hunting for women and girls.
When he found them, he would lure them away from any prying eyes. And once he had them alone, Tkach would rape them. After he was done, Tkach would then typically strangle his victims with a cord. Sometimes, he waited until the victims stopped struggling and the life had left their eyes before performing sex acts on the body.
Between his first murder in 1980 and his capture in 2005, young women and girls mostly between ages eight and 18 disappeared regularly in eastern Ukraine. At the time of the earliest disappearances, the area was still part of the Soviet Union. And as with so many things that happened in the Soviet Union, not much information made it to the outside world.
Even the police themselves had little information to go on. They were never able to conclusively link the killings to a single person and even jailed many different innocent people over the years in connection with Serhiy Tkach’s murders.
The Wrong Men
Girls and young women would disappear and their bodies would later turn up with signs of sexual assault. Men who lived nearby would then be arrested and charged with the crime based on whatever scant evidence the cops could find. In turn, these innocent men would have their own lives destroyed.
One man reportedly hanged himself in detention after police charged him in the murder of his own daughter. Another was eventually released from jail only to be saddled with a reputation as a murderer. He ended up homeless and destitute.
Another man, Maksym Dmytrenko, was arrested in 2004 after a 17-year-old girl’s body turned up near where he lived. She had been raped and murdered. Dmytrenko was brought in with another man for questioning based on nothing but the fact that he was in the area at the time. After the man he was brought in with had a heart attack in custody, the police became determined to stick the blame on Dmytrenko.
“They brought me to a prosecutor who asked me if I did it,” he said. “I said no, which was my big mistake as the police took me back to my cell for more torture until I told the prosecutor that I did it.”
Dmytrenko claims that he was beaten for days for a confession before being sentenced to prison. He spent six years there, remaining in prison even after Tkach confessed to the killing, before finally being released.
And while police arrested innocent man after innocent man in the hunt for the “Pologovsky Maniac,” Serhiy Tkach continued to rape and murder women and girls.
Capture And Marriage
After Serhiy Tkach was finally caught by the friends of his last victim after showing up to her funeral in 2005, his trial became a media sensation. The image of Tkach in his defendant’s cage — a common part of criminal proceedings in Ukraine for people accused of serious crimes — filtered out into both the national and international press.
He was tried for 37 murders — though he’s claimed to have killed more than 100 — and convicted easily in 2008. He was then sentenced to life in prison in Ukraine, which is where he remains to this day.
However, despite the media coverage of his vicious murders, not everyone was horrified by his crimes. In fact, one woman fell in love. At just 16, the woman now known as Elena Tkach would have been the perfect age to be one of Serhiy Tkach’s victims. Instead, she became his wife.
Captivated by the media coverage of his capture and trial, Elena began visiting Tkach in jail, fell in love, and eventually married him in 2015. “I am not scared by his conviction. It’s good that women are scared of him, if that’s the case, there is less competition for me,” she told the press. She has even said that she would have helped him bury the bodies if he had asked.
In late 2016, the couple had a daughter (Ukrainian prisons allow for conjugal visits), who Tkach has not yet met. Now that they are a family, Elena, now 25, is currently trying to secure an early release for her husband and claims that they hope to live out the rest of their lives in eastern Russia. If that happens, what a happy ending it would be for a man who claims to have brutalized and killed some 100 women and girls.