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A.K.A.: "The Wolf of Moscow"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Horse-trader - Robberies
Number of victims: 33
Date of murders: 1921 - 1923
Date of birth: 1871
Victims profile: Men (prospective buyers)
Method of murder: Hitting with a hammer - Strangulation
Location: Moscow, Russia
Status: Executed by a firing squad on June 18, 1923

From 1921 until 1923 Moscow police hunted a killer who had made a habit of murdering men and dumping their bodies, enclosed in sacks, in one of the cities poorer neighborhoods.

Oddly, the corpses always seemed to turn up the day after horses went to market in the same neighborhood, which led them to horse dealer Vasili Komaroff, a man who seemed a highly unlikely suspect on the surface and was known as a happy family man.

To his closest frends, however, Komaroff was a violent fellow who had once tried to kill his own eight-year-old son. When authorities paid Komaroff's stable a visit they discovered his latest victim under a pile of hay bagged and waiting for dumping.

Komaroff confessed to being "The Wolf Of Moscow", claiming to have murdered thirty-three men he lured away from the nearby horse market and leading investigators to five additional bodies that were still enclosed in the trademark sacks, undiscovered. Some victims that the slayer had murdered had been thrown into a river and never found. He claimed he had simply waited until the unfortunate men had turned their backs on him and then had bludgeoned them with a hammer or strangled them to death.

Apparently guilty by association, Komaroff's wife was charged in the homocides as well and both were found guilty of the murders. Both were shot to death by a firing squad on June 18, 1923.


Komaroff, Vasili

Vasili Komaroff was known among his neighbors as a friendly, smiling family man. He dealt in horses, and maintained a stable at his home, in Moscow's Shabolovki district. 

None who knew him well suspected that he might have been the "Wolf of Moscow," an elusive killer who had terrorized the neighborhood and foiled police investigators in a two-year manhunt. Times were hard and life was cheap in Russia, in the early 1920s. Revolution and a grueling civil war had trained the populace to live with danger, but the recent spate of murders in the nation's capital were something else, entirely. 

From the latter part of 1921, through early 1923, police pursued the brutal executioner of twenty-one male victims, each of whom had been discovered tightly bound in sacks, their bodies dumped on waste ground in the Shabolovki neighborhood. 

The corpses had been "trussed like chickens for roasting," and detectives noted they were nearly always found on Thursday or on Saturday. The timing seemed to be no mere coincidence, considering the fact that horses went to market in the neighborhood on Wednesday afternoons and Fridays. It seemed probable that victims were selected from the market crowds, but probability and proof were two entirely different things. At length, investigators heard about Vasili Komaroff from other traders in the district. It was curious, they said, that while Vasili seldom brought a horse to market, he was often seen to leave with customers. It might have been coincidence, and then again... 

Detectives questioned neighbors of the Komaroffs. and learned that familyman Vasili had a nasty, violent streak behind the ever-present smile. On one occasion, they were told, he tried to hang his eldest son -- an eight-year-old -- but was prevented by his wife, who cut the struggling victim down. A raiding party visited Vasili's stable, on the pretext of a search for bootleg liquor, and they found his latest victim, trussed and bagged, beneath a pile of hay.

In custody, the Wolf of Moscow readily confessed his crimes. In all, he reckoned he had murdered thirty-three prospective buyers, luring each in turn with promises of bargain prices, killing them in the seclusion of his stable.

Robbery was cited as the motive, though he averaged barely eighty cents per man -- a miserable $26.40 for the entire series of crimes. Vasili led his captors to the dumping grounds where five more corpses lay in burlap bags. He had disposed of half a dozen others in the Moskva River; their remains were never found.

The prisoner tried suicide three times, without success, thereafter trusting in the court to grant him speedy trial and execution. "I am fifty-two," he told reporters from his cell. "I have had a good time and don't want to live any longer." Questioned on the nature of his crimes, he spoke of murder as "an awfully easy job." Vasili told the press, "I killed a man who tried to beat me in a horse trade. He was the only one who ever resisted. It was very easy. I just knocked them on their heads with a hammer or strangled them." His murder trial convened on June 7, 1923. 

Vasili's wife was also charged with murder, on the theory that she scarcely could have overlooked her husband's grisly homework. The proceedings were conducted in Moscow's huge Polytechnic Museum to accommodate gawkers, and Vasili seemed to take it well when, in the predawn hours of June 8, the court condemned him to be shot within the next three days. Departing for his cell, the Wolf of Moscow quipped, "Well it's my turn to be put in the sack now." 

An eleventh-hour change of heart resulted in appeals, delaying the inevitable, but the fate of the defendants had been sealed. On June 18, the Komaroffs were executed by a Moscow firing squad.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers


Vasili Komaroff (33)

A horse-trader during the early days of Stalin, Vasili was known as "The Wolf of Moscow" for his unbridled reign of terror. A peasant, Vasili typically killed for money. His first victim was uncovered in 1921. Many others followed with frightful regularity.

There were 21 in all: strangled, bound, doubled-over and dumped in vacant lots around the Shabolovki District. Authorities linked the killings to the horse-trading market un Moscow that happened every Wednesdays and Fridays.

As authorities soon discovered, anyone who left with Vasili to see his horses was never seen or heard of again. When police went to his home to question him they found his latest victim stuffed in a sack in the stable. Panicked, "the Wolf" jumped out the window and escaped.

Several days later he was picked up and confessed to the tune of 33 killings, 11 of which were not under investigation. Over the next few days he uncovered five new corpses for the authorities. The other six victims he dumped in the river and their bodies were never recovered.

Vasili implicated his wife Sofia as an accomplice. They were both found guilty of multiple homicides and sentenced to death. On June 18, 1923, they went to the "big horse-show in the sky" via firing squad.



MO: Horse dealer who robbed/kllled customers at his stable

DISPOSITION: Executed with wife (convicted as accomplice), June 18, 1923.



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