Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Devil's Trail

The Psychiatrist and the Murderer

Bukhanovsky agreed to question Chikatilo, but out of professional interest, not for the court. Burakov agreed to these conditions. Bukhanovsky was soon in a closed room alone with the best suspect in the lesopolosa murders.

Andrei Chikatilo mugshot
Andrei Chikatilo mugshot

The psychiatrist saw right away, writes Cullen, that this was the type of man that he had described in his 1987 profile. So many of the indicators were there — ordinary, solitary, non-threatening. He introduced himself with a show of humility and then showed Chikatilo the profile. He sensed that this man wanted to talk about his rage and his humiliation, so it was best to show sympathy and listen. He spent two hours doing that, and then began to discuss the crimes.

In the film, Citizen X, Bukhanovsky is shown asking Chikatilo to help him on some aspects of the profile that he was not quite certain about. He reads the relevant pages to him, and one sees Chikatilo listening intently, as if alert to the only person who seems ever to have understood him. Bukhanovsky's description goes into the nature of Chikatilo's mental illness and some reasons for it. As Chikatilo hears his secret life described so clearly, he begins to tremble. Finally he affirms what the psychiatrist is saying, breaks down and admits that it's all true. He has done those horrible things.

Bukhanovsky talked with him for hours and then went out and told police interrogators that the suspect was now ready to confess.

Kostoyev prepared a formal statement accusing Chikatilo of 36 murders. He was off by a long shot, but no one yet knew that.

Yelena Zakotnova, victim
Yelena Zakotnova,

Chikatilo read the statement of charges and admitted that he was guilty of the crimes listed. He wanted now to tell the truth about his life and what had led him into these crimes. Among his admissions was his first murder, which had occurred not when the police had first begun to keep track with Lyubov Biryuk but years early in 1978. He had killed a little girl, Yelena Zakotnova, age nine.

This was alarming, since a man had already been arrested, tried and executed for that murder. But Chikatilo said that he had moved to Shakhty that year to teach. Before his family arrived, his free time was spent watching children and feeling a strong desire to see them without their clothes on. To maintain his privacy, he purchased a hut on a dark, dirty street. When he went to it one day, he came upon the girl, was seized with urgent sexual desire, and took her to the hut to attack her.

When he could not achieve an erection, he had moved in imitation of the sexual act and used his knife as a substitute. During his frenzy of strangulation and stabbing, he blindfolded her. Once she was dead, he tossed her body into a nearby river. Lourie devotes a chapter to the fact that he was a suspect, seen by a witness, and that blood was found on his doorstep, but the other man had confessed under torture, so Chikatilo was free. Chikatilo was shocked to nearly have been caught.

The Secret House crime scene
The Secret House crime scene

Kostoyev asked him to explain the blindfold, and just as they had suspected, Chikatilo admitted that he had heard that the image of a killer remains in the eyes of a victim. It was a superstition, but he had believed it. That was why he had wounded so many others in the eyes. Then he had decided it was not true, so he stopped doing that (explaining the change in pattern). Later he admitted that he just had not liked his victims looking at him as he attacked them.

Lourie describes how Chikatilo hated to see how vagrants at train stations went off into the woods for sexual encounters that he could never emulate. His fantasies became more violent. In 1981, he repeated his manner of attack on a vagrant girl looking for money, but he also used his teeth on her to bite off a nipple and swallow it. "At the moment of cutting her and seeing the body cut open," he said, "I involuntarily ejaculated." He covered her with newspaper and took her sexual organs away with him, only to cast them aside in the woods.

Chikatilo re-enacts crime, evidence
Chikatilo re-enacts crime,

He remembered the details of each of the 36 lesopolosa murders and went through them, one by one. Sometimes he acted as a predator, learning someone's routes and habits and finding a way to get that person alone. Others were victims of opportunity who happened along at the wrong time. The stabbing almost always was a substitute for sexual intercourse that could not be performed. He had learned how to squat beside them in such a way as to avoid getting their blood on his clothing (which he demonstrated with a mannequin). At any rate, he worked in a shipping firm, so there was always an excuse for a scrape or cut. It seemed that his impotence generally triggered the rage, especially if the women made demands or ridiculed him. He soon understood that he could not get aroused without violence. "I had to see blood and wound the victims."

With the boys, it was different, although they bled just as easily as women and that's what he needed most. Chikatilo would fantasize that these boys were his captives and that he was a hero for torturing and doing them in. He could not give a reason for cutting off their tongues and penises, although at one point he said he was taking revenge against life on the genitals of his victims. Lourie says, based on the psychiatric reports, that Chikatilo would place his semen inside a uterus that he had just removed and as he walked along, he would chew on it — "the truffle of sexual murder." He never admitted to actually consuming these organs, but searches never turned up any discarded remains.

"But the whole thing," Chikatilo said, "the cries, the blood, the agony — gave me relaxation and a certain pleasure." He liked the taste of their blood and would even tear at their mouths with his teeth. He said it gave him an "animal satisfaction" to chew or swallow nipples or testicles.

To corroborate what he was saying, he drew sketches of the crime scenes, and what he said fit the known facts. Then he confirmed what everyone had feared — he added more victims to the list. Many more.

Andrei Chikatilo mugshot, profile
Andrei Chikatilo mugshot,

One boy he had killed in a cemetery and placed in a shallow grave — a hole, he said, that he had dug for himself when he had contemplated suicide. He took the interrogators there and they recovered the body. Another was killed in a field, and she was located. On and on it went, murders here and there, and the bodies were always left right where they were killed, except for one. Chikatilo described a murder in an empty apartment and to get the body out, he had to dismember it and dump the parts down a sewer. The police had wondered whether this one was part of the series and had decided that there were too many dissimilarities to include it.

In the end, he confessed to 56 murders (Lourie counts it as 55), although there was corroboration for only 53 — 31 females and 22 males. Burakov, says Cullen, believed that there might actually be more.

They now had sufficient evidence to take this man to court. In the meantime, they discovered more about him.