A. Kuznetsov: On December 22, 1978, 9-year-old girl, second-grader Lena Zakotnova did not return home after school in the city of Shakhty, Rostov region. The family, of course, went to the police. Began the search. On December 24, that is, two days later, on the outskirts of the city, in a very disadvantaged area, near the bridge over the Grushevka river, Lena's corpse was found, and slightly downstream - her school bag.
The police immediately began active searches. A witness was found - a woman who claimed that a few days before the incident, she had seen a girl in a bright red jacket at a tram stop ...
S. Buntman: Recall that in 1978 the Soviet people dressed very unobtrusively.
A. Kuznetsov: Yes. That is why the girl witnessed and remembered.
And this little girl was talking to some middle-aged man in a hat, wearing glasses, with a bag from which the neck of wine bottles protruded. The woman saw a man and a girl agree on something, and the man went to the alley, and the girl followed him. Witness this picture seemed strange.
S. Buntman: That is, she recognized Lena?
A. Kuznetsov: Yes. In addition, the woman had a good visual memory. An artist was called, who, from her words, sketched a portrait of the man he was seeking.
S. Buntman: Began mining territory.
A. Kuznetsov: Yes. One of the district police officers, having entered the educational institution, which was located on its territory, showed the portrait to the director. He identified him as his employee, who shortly before what happened in this very lane, where a man and a girl had retired, bought a very miserable one-room playcloth, ingrown into the ground, for fifteen hundred rubles. This man's name was Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo.
He, Chikatilo, was summoned for interrogation. Not only he, but also the other inhabitants of this lane. And here there was an interesting episode. When all the interrogated gathered in the corridor, one woman turned to Chikatilo: “Is it you who is our neighbor? Nice to meet you. Due to the fact that recently at your house the light was on, I did not have to dodge on our unlit alley. Thank you very much". Chikatilo this gratitude greatly embarrassed: “What are you? I bought this house for my father. I practically do not happen in it ". “Well, how is it? For two days in a row, your light was on, ”the neighbor concluded.
S. Buntman: Did Chikatilo look like a painted portrait?
A. Kuznetsov: Yes. However, this did not attach much importance. In addition, an alibi was discovered in Chikatilo: his wife confirmed that at the time when the crime allegedly occurred, he was at home.
Perhaps it was an alibi that would have begun to be checked properly, but at that very moment another suspect was found who put Andrei Romanovich in the background. This suspect was Alexander Petrovich Kravchenko. Eight years before the events described, in 1970, he committed, at first glance, an absolutely similar crime. Then Kravchenko was 17 years old. A 9-year-old girl came to the house where he lived with her parents, whom Kravchenko raped, killed, expelled his eyes and buried in the garden.
S. Buntman: Hit, as they say, in the apple. And how was he then free?
A. Kuznetsov: As a minor, he was sentenced to ten years in prison. Six of them he served in the colony. The rest of the punishment for exemplary behavior was mitigated, replaced by the so-called "chemistry".
Kravchenko lived quietly for two years. Neighbors said they almost did not drink, got married. That is, it seems to have taken the path of correction. According to the regime, there were no complaints about him either. But when the investigators got the Kravchenko case and looked at the address of his residence (and he lived in this most ill-fated lane), then they had almost no doubts left.
S. Buntman: But still there?
A. Kuznetsov: Yes. The fact is that Kravchenko at first also had an alibi: his wife and her friend, who was visiting them at the time, agreed that he had come home around 6 pm on that day. Forensic scientists also claimed that the girl’s death occurred at around 19.00, not earlier. The witness also stated that the episode at the bus stop occurred at about 6:00 pm.
Shortly before, her classmate was talking to Lena. By the way, is also a very interesting story. Lena boasted that she has a familiar grandfather who promised to treat her with chewing gum.
S. Buntman: What is in 1978 for the Soviet child chewing gum, many are.
A. Kuznetsov: And Lena even asked her friend if she wanted a grandfather to treat her too? He is kind, will not refuse. And a day later the girl died.
Why did we speak for grandfather? Well, under no circumstances could even the child call Kravchenko a grandfather. He is not thirty years old.
S. Buntman: Uncle.
A. Kuznetsov: Yes, the biggest - uncle.
And Kravchenko was released. But after a while, a completely strange thing happened: the neighbor Kravchenko stated that her laundry had disappeared from the attic, and fragments of this laundry were leading straight to Kravchenko's house. Literally in the wake of the precinct policeman reached the house of Kravchenko and found these things in him. Kravchenko immediately confessed to the theft. And it was here that they began to work it out seriously, precisely for murder, and on charges of theft of things, his wife was taken into custody.
This is also a very dubious thing, since, on the one hand, the desire of the operatives to put pressure on the woman so that she changes her testimony regarding the time of arrival of the spouse is evident, and on the other hand, such deliberate and completely foolish theft leads to conflicting thoughts: the dramatization of the police with the involvement of an outside woman, the applicant, or a well-known method - to sit down on a small matter, sit out. And without that arising question marks began to multiply one by one.
Kravchenko started, as they say, stabbing for involvement in this case. And, it must be said, they have compiled a very impressive list of circumstantial, but very weighty evidence. In the end he admitted. And when a photo of the girl was presented to him for identification, and the clothes she was wearing, he unmistakably indicated everything. (A question mark appears again: either he was instructed if this confession had been knocked out, or ...).
A not very common botanical examination was conducted: samples of botanical material (dry seeds, burdock, etc.) were taken from the victim’s and suspect’s clothes. And the expert concluded that this is typical for this place. (However, the value of such a study is not very great: the girl was in the alley, there is no doubt, and Kravchenko simply lived there).
But there was something more serious: on Kravchenko’s sweater, traces of blood of the same group as that of the victim were found, as well as microscopic particles of her clothes.
There were serious suspicions that the alibi was fake. At first, the women showed that Kravchenko came home at 6:00 pm sober, like a piece of glass, and then they said that he appeared after 6:30 pm, fairly drunk.
And, of course, the coincidence played almost the details of the two murders - the 1970s and the 1978s.
The case was brought to court. Kravchenko refused the testimony, stating that they, the testimony, were obtained under pressure, as they say, are knocked out of it. On August 16, 1979, the Rostov Regional Court sentenced Kravchenko to death, but at the request of lawyers in November of the same year, the Supreme Court of the RSFSR returned the case for further investigation. In May 1980, the Rostov Regional Office returned the case for further investigation. And in December, the Supreme Court of the RSFSR canceled the death sentence, leaving 15 years for theft.
But then relatives of the murdered Lena began to show activity. First of all, her grandmother, who eventually succeeded in obtaining the Rostov Regional Court in 1982, for the third time, convicted Kravchenko to death. This time the board of the Supreme Court of the RSFSR upheld the conviction. Finally, the Presidium of the Supreme Council and the relevant commission of the Presidium of the Supreme Council rejected a plea for pardon. On July 5, 1983, Kravchenko was shot.
Meanwhile, starting from the end of 1981, that is, exactly three years after the murder of Lena Zakotnova, that same nightmare began in Rostov and the Rostov Region, which was first named by the operatives and then by journalists at the “Forestbreak Case”.
S. Buntman: Well, this is already pure, pure Chikatilo.
A. Kuznetsov: Yes. And in this case too many innocent people were involved.
Ultimately, in 1990, Operation “Forestopolos” was crowned with the detention of Chikatilo, who rather quickly began to confess. He was accused of 53 murders, he also confessed in 56. Then the case of the murder of Lena Zakotnovaya surfaced.
From the testimony of Chikatilo during the investigation: “I had the first crime of killing this girl, and I myself, without any reminder, sincerely told about the circumstances of her murder. At the time of my arrest in the present case, the investigating authorities could not have known that this murder had been committed by me. It was after this crime that I started killing my other victims ... ”.
And then Issa Magometovich Kostoyev, a very experienced and energetic investigator, who at that time held the post of deputy chief of the investigative unit of the RSFSR Prosecutor’s Office, literally clung to this case. He carefully studied this episode, gathered the necessary evidence and wrote a submission to the Supreme Court that it was necessary to overturn the sentence of Kravchenko, Chikatilo confessed. The Supreme Court decided that this is not enough.
Kostoev took it as a click on the nose, wrote another protest, now as a prosecutor in charge of supervision. The Supreme Court kicked him off again. Kostoev began to dig so deeply, simply did not leave a stone unturned from the previous evidence in the Kravchenko case, and finally achieved that in 1991 the Supreme Court of Kravchenko canceled the sentence.
In the meantime, this episode began to fall out of the Chikatilo case - at one of the first court sessions, he refused his previous testimony. Kostoev suggested that the Rostov authorities decided to whitewash themselves and pressed on the murderer. The scandal was aggravated by the fact that Kostoev gave several interviews in which publicly stated that Chikatilo was guilty of the murder of Lena Zakotnova. Issa Magometovich’s reputation came under serious blow. And soon, when the indictment in the Chikatilo case was announced, one of the two state prosecutors refused to accuse Chikatilo of Lena’s murder, considering him guilty unproved. He was replaced by another prosecutor.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court, which reviewed and reviewed Chikatilo, also threw out this episode: “In violation of the requirements of Art. 177 of the Criminal Procedural Code of the RSFSR, the court based its accusation on these episodes on Chikatilo’s confession during the preliminary investigation in the absence of other indisputable evidence confirming his confession. ”
That is, the court made the only legal decision - interpreted unavoidable doubts in favor of the accused.
Vladislav Postanogov, a judge of the Rostov Regional Court, who presided over the last trial of the Kravchenko case, believed that he was guilty of the murder of Lena Zakotnova: “We checked his arguments right at the court session, interrogated the police officers called who exactly was sitting. In general, everything that could be done at that stage of the process, we, of course, checked. It was hardly possible to ignore the objective circumstance that Kravchenko was already previously convicted for a similar crime - murder, accompanied by rape ... ".
And finally, it must be said that this case would be incomplete if we did not mention another suspect. On January 8, 1979 (Kravchenko was still not completely arrested) in Novocherkassk a certain Anatoly Grigoriev, 50 years old, born in the city of Shakhty, hanged himself. On December 31, on the eve of the New Year, in the tram park, of which he was an employee, Grigoriev, being very drunk, boasted to colleagues that he supposedly killed and strangled the girl, about whom he “wrote in the newspapers”. The workers knew that “at Tolka, drunk, fantasy wakes up,” and therefore they did not believe him. However, Grigoriev apparently expected that these drunken revelations would still respond to him. When he came to his daughter in Novocherkassk, he was very upset, drank a lot, cried, swore that he had not killed anyone, but had slandered himself. After waiting for her daughter to go to work, Grigoriev hanged himself in the toilet.
S. Buntman: And this is another question mark ...