Russia’s most brutal serial killer, who has confessed to raping and killing 83 women and is suspected of a further 100 murders, says he sometimes wishes he had been executed.
Mikhail Viktorovich Popkov is known as "The Werewolf" and the "Angarsk maniac" because of the savage frenzied nature of his attacks.
He killed women with a variety of weapon including knives, axes, baseball bats, and screwdrivers, often mutilating the bodies horribly.
Now serving a life sentence in a penal colony where he has been put to work making face masks during the pandemic, he recently confessed to another two murders committed during the 1990s.
Police believe Popkov's final toll will be higher, with one senior investigator on his case predicting more than 100 and possibly “closer to 200”.
“There were moments when I thought the death penalty was better,” said father-of-one Popkov, 56, as he spoke about his life in the Russian penal system.
The Russian government has not allowed the death penalty since 1996. Before this, the condemned were shot to the back of the head by an executioner.
Speaking from behind bars in a detention centre in Irkutsk, Popkov expressed 'regret' if not remorse for his butchery.
“I have a lot to regret. For example, that none of this had happened, that I had not done (these things),"he told Vesti Irkutsk.
“It is a natural desire of any person - to regret.
“I have had a lot of time to think ( about it ).”
Asked how many women he had killed in total, he refused to be specific.
“I did not count the number of my victims,” he said.
Some in Russia suspect that Popkov is drip-feeding his confessions so he is regularly moved back to the Siberian crime scenes from the Torbeyevsky Tsentral hard labour penal colony thousands of miles away in the bleak Mordovia region.
“I had been working in Torbeyevsky Tsentral for 10 months and just wanted a vacation, so I wrote a confession,” he revealed.
“I knew that I would be brought to Irkutsk.”
Popkov routinely used his official police 4x4 Lada to offer lifts to lone women as they walked home after a night out in his home city of Angarsk.
"I cannot tell you the details of the episodes (which I have confessed to now).
“But everything was the same - in the city, late in the evening, at night, being drunk.
“I stopped (them) then I felt fear - that I would be caught.”
His 20-year reign of terror ended in 2012 after tyre tracks near several of the crime scenes pointed to the killer having some involvement with law enforcement. He was identified after a huge DNA testing operation took swabs from 3,500 current and former police officers.
In January 2015, he was sentenced to life in prison for 22 murders and two attempted murders.
Two years later, Popkov confessed to 59 additional murders, and in December 2018 he was handed a second life sentence.
A law enforcement video shows Popkov at a murder scene as he explained how he killed one of the two new victims.
He confessed to forcing her to have sex and told a detective: “We quarrelled and I murdered her.
“I hit her on the top of her head….
"She fell down and did not show any signs of life.”
Lt-Col Evgeny Karchevsky, lead investigator on the mass murder case, said 11 months ago: “I am more than sure that Popkov committed 100-plus crimes, if not closer to 200, It was impossible for him to stop halfway.”