In our previous installment, KP learned that the Austrian and Russian maniacs who hid their sex slaves in homemade bunkers share shocking similarities. One key characteristic is that psychiatrists consider them to be completely sane. If this is the case, then how can society protect potential victims? How can maniacs be found before they build their underground prisons?
After Viktor Mokhov’s arrest, Skopin residents broke all the windows of his home. His mother, Alisa Valentinovna, boarded them up and locked herself in the darkness, just as her son had done to the girls from Ryzansk. Mokhov received 17 years in prison for his crimes.
“They give you less for murder!” Mokhov writes in his letters. Instead of compensating for the damage caused to his former sex slaves, Mokhov lovingly sends his monthly pension checks to his mother. He asks her to write to the president and sends her ready made texts: “Honorable president! I sincerely request your help in re-examining my son’s case. His sentence is illegal. The accusations are built on the victims’ testimonies without any evidence. My son was always involved in socially useful work and has a 37-year work history.”
“Nonsense!” Valentinovna said. “He doesn’t really think I’ll write that, does he?” she asked. Valentinovna can’t explain what happened to her son shortly before retirement. He had once been such a quiet, modest boy who didn’t drink or smoke. There seems to be only one explanation, as banal as it may seem. Mokhov got mixed up with the wrong crowd.
It’s a complicated story. Mokhov had a girlfriend named Inka, who was sent to prison for killing her lover. He waited for her faithfully. But when Inka was released from prison, she left Mokhov for her lesbian girlfriend Lena. It was Lena who helped Mokhov poison the two girls and lure them into his vault as a form of compensation. Lena was later sentenced to 5 years for her crimes. She’ll be released soon. Sadly, no one will meet her. Last month Inka got drunk and drowned in a cesspool. So it seems life isn’t boring in Skopin. I guess that’s why the cafe menus often start with the price of broken dishes and seats.
“Man is an animal by nature. Dissatisfaction is the foundation of his behavior,” said Dmitriy Plotkin, former special affairs investigator at the Ryazansk Regional Prosecutor’s Office, who took part in the case. “When the beard starts to gray, some people see they lived their entire lives with little to no sexual development. So Mokhov went out and dug a hole three years just to sleep with a woman! One wise quote like we found at Mokhov’s place is enough to trigger the crime: ‘If an elderly creature reproduces with a young one, then the former will grow younger.'”
Only two questions remain. How many men have a similar dream? And how many bunkers are already filled with prisoners?
They and It
Freud referred to the animal that controls a man’s decisions and forces him to hunt for prey as the “It.” Modern society takes this issue all too lightly. And this is unfortunate. Many scholars attribute the gruesome path taken by Hitler’s Third Reich to his sexual problems.
Most “wardens” of home prisons, including Fritzl, Komin, the Belgian rapist and killer Dyutru and the French Furnire, have served time for rape. What they did later — digging bunkers and forcing girls inside — is a repeat manifestation of this “It.”
Many parents lose their children because no one keeps an eye on sexual offenders after they are released from prison. Although Fritzl served time in 1967 for raping a nurse, Austrian archives only store information on sex offenders for 5 years. Thus, he faced little difficulty in becoming the father and grandfather to his daughter’s children. No one was regularly checking up on him. After Fritzl was released from prison, he had three children in his official family and 7 kids in his unofficial one.
Police have put together psychological portraits of potential rapists who are prone to keeping sex slaves. But hundreds of thousands of men fall into the category — 40 and older, technical education, sexual problems, authoritarian mother, fights in childhood, greed and exceptional professional characteristics.
Who can help weed out the perpetrators?
If rapists can’t be castrated, then we need to look for the bunkers that they’ve built. What advice should be given to those searching for these bunkers? I headed back to Ryzan to talk with Katya, who escaped four years ago. She once offered her advice to people in similar situations in KP (March 2004). I thought that she may have some insight.
Witnesses must have suspected something was going in in the cases of Mokhov, Fritzl, Komin and Priklopil. So who can the police rely on for reliable information? I asked Katya.
The neighbors? Katya says that this is unlikely.
Mokhov’s neighbors must have seen him climbing into his vault from his garage. But they kept silent.
Komin’s neighbors once asked him what he was digging. But they were satisfied with the answer: “Growing cucumbers.”
Maybe family members? That’s doubtful.
All Skopin residents are sure that Mokhov’s mother knew what was going on. And Valentinovna herself doesn’t hide this fact.
“Who’s in there?” Valentinovna once asked her son. “Just a refugee,” he answered and she calmed down.
Theoretically, Rosemary should have suspected her husband was up to something. She would have found the basement lair if she had checked the water or electric meter just once in 24 years. But her husband insisted that he would look after the electricity and heating as is customary in many small towns. So she never asked any questions.
How about local shop owners? Probably not.
Fritzl drove hundreds of kilometers to large supermarkets to avoid suspicion when purchasing children’s underwear and women’s hygienic goods.
How about the police then? That’s also not a fail-safe option.
Kampush’s lawyer said that the police conducted the most wide-scale searches in Austria’s history.
Russian police also searched for Lena and Katya in the Rzyansk region, but for some reason skipped over Skopin entirely.
The police did not react at all to Elizabeth’s disappearance in 1984. Instead they took Fritzl’s word that she had run off and joined a sect.
Tatyana Melnikova was held captive by a maniac in Vyatskie Polyany. She died in poverty before receiving any assistance from the state.
“We would have found these criminals more quickly back in the Soviet days,” said a retired Ryzansk police officer who I bumped into in Rzyansk. In the Soviet days, he said, someone would have told the police that Mokhov kept a prostitute in his cellar for one week and let her go long before he captured Katya and Lena.
Desensitized from the horror
The Russian and Austrian stories are similar. But they have different endings. Austrian citizens donated so much money to the Natasha Kampush Fund that she began sharing the money with other victims. She could even buy an apartment with all the money she received for interviews. The situation is more complicated for Fritzl’s family, but Austria certainly won’t leave them impoverished either. At the moment they are receiving state-sponsored medical treatment.
What about Russia?
In spring 2004, KP published Lena’s and Katya’s bank details and wrote: “Readers! We need your help! These girls have returned home to see the light of day, but not life itself. They need time and money to heal. Please help them forget the awful nightmare they were forced to live through.”
Four years later, I called them to find out if they had received much money as a result of the ad. Only 1,000 rubles a piece.
“So many horrible things are happening in Russia that people have become desensitized,” Lena said laughingly.
But money isn’t the only important thing. Everything turned out just fine for Katya and Lena. They both rehabilitated and got married. Of course, instead of receiving help from the state, they ended up having to prolong their torment by undergoing medical examinations and driving up to 150 kilometers a day to attend 18 court proceedings shortly after their escape.
Eventually Lena received a diploma as a guide and translator without attending any courses. She studied English while imprisoned to keep from going mad. Katya became a wonderful artist during her 3.5 years of captivity. Unfortunately, she wasn’t allowed to enroll at the professional art school as they required her to attend paid courses. So Katya stopped drawing and writing poetry.
After publishing one of her poems four years ago, KP was sure publishing houses would be knocking at her door. Strange. How could they have passed up such a story? A young girl who wrote 321 poems as a sex slave in captivity?!
Today, Katya is trying to write again. But this time she’s writing prose. READ MORE