The Fear As a Plausible Motive,
January 21, 2005, "BDG", Sergey Satsuk
Or Who Murdered Vieranika Charkasava?
The Belarusan society got completely stunned by the news about a famous journalist Vieranika Charkasava’s murder three months ago. If to say nothing about the ominous “disappearance” of a cameraman Dzmitry Zavadzki several years ago, it was the first assassination of “the fourth power” representative in the history of independent Belarus. During the three months, the Criminal Investigations Department, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and journalists have carried out immense work on settling the reasons of the tragedy. Therefore, now it is possible to make the first review of all collected facts.
The Fear and the Theory of Probability
Even in the conditions of today’s informational isolation, the Belarusan authorities are still utterly afraid of freely thinking journalists. Therefore, all events in the country, including the cases of kidnapping and murdering independent media-men should be regarded in the context of constantly increasing fear, depicting the growing tendency towards weakness of the regime in power.
Certainly, there exists a tiny possibility that at the time ‘X’ and at the moment ‘x’ someone might be killed by a brick falling down from a house-top. However, if the brick has a deviated trajectory, the matter of contingency must be excluded. As far as Vieranika’s case is concerned, this contingency is quite noticeable.
During the first days of the murder investigation, the police officers examined the place of crime and evaluated the situation in the correct way. The possibility that a stranger might enter a closed doorway, get through a closed storey landing, murder Vieranika with no traces and leave the apartment unnoticed was really small. However, having assessed the facts correctly, the legal investigators came to a false conclusion. They started suspecting her close relatives. As if Vieranika’s fourteen-year son or step-father had been taught to stay invisible in a peopled place. Still, if to analyze all collected facts, the things appear in a completely different way. According to the statistics, the clearance of murders in Belarus amounts to 90%. Moreover, the solution of domestic murders totals nearly 100%. Thus, Vieranika Charkasava’s case was definitely not a trivial domestic crime.
The Black Day
October 20, 2004 has entered the history of the Belarusan journalism as a black day. On that Wednesday, the “Salidanasc” newspaper editorial team was preparing a successive issue of the periodical for publishing. Though Vieranika had passed her materials beforehand, everybody was waiting for her at the office. A day before, the journalist had returned from a regional trip. In the morning, she called her family in order to learn how they were doing and to a have a talk. (Vieranika’s mother Dyjana Cimafiejeuna, step-father Uladzimir Uladzimiravich and son Anton reside in a separate apartment in Knoryn street.) The journalist’s mother took the receiver. It was at 8.45 am. The talk was just usual. Vieranika complained of the broken bumper of her car. Dyjana Cimafiejeuna told her daughter the latest news and inquired on the trip results. A couple of minutes later, on learning about the broken bumper, the journalist’s step-father re-phoned Vieranika and wondered if he might help with the car repairing. She responded she would cope with fixing up the bumper herself, as the breakage was not serious.
The next person to phone Vieranika was her son. Anton called his mother at 9.15. The talk continued for less than a minute. According to Anton, at that moment he was going by tram to the “Akvabel” market and phoned his mother to learn if she might need anything to be purchased there. In particular, Anton wondered if Vieranika still needed a CD-RW to record some information she had required on the previous Sunday. According to Anton’s explanations, when he called up his Mom, the tram was passing by the Sievastopalski Park.
Vieranika used to come to the editorial office at 10 am. However, on October 20, she appeared at work neither at 10 o’clock nor later. She didn’t call up her colleagues in order to notify about her absence. It wasn’t like her at all. She answered no phone calls. Therefore, in the evening, the “Salidarnasc” newspaper journalists decided to call Vieranika’s friend. In her turn, she phoned up the journalist’s parents. Finally, on 10.20 pm Vieranika’s step-father and son came to her apartment and saw a terrifying scene.
The Place of Crime
Vieranika dwelled in a two-roomed apartment in Niekrasau Str. she had bought nearly two years before. The block of flats has 12 entries. Most of them are located in the yard. Therefore, the latter is constantly full of people. Both the yard and the entries are cleaned by a yard-keeper from 7 am till 11 am. Also, this is the mail delivery time. On the ground floor near Vieranika’s entry, there’s located a sales company office. The women working there got accustomed to smoking at the entry in the morning. It is very difficult to pass all these people unnoticed. Still, it is possible to do, if you have certain special skills.
Vieranika’s apartment looked as if the dwellers had moved into it two days before. There were piles of tied up books lying in the hall and a box with packed things in the sitting room. Only her son Anton’s room was in a more or less lived-in state.
Vieranika’s body was located in the sitting-room close to the door. Her hands were up and a bit to the sides, as if she had been shifted from one place to another, or at least, as if she had been laid in this position. The feet were put one on the other and called an analogy with the feet of the crucified Christ. On the right of Vieranika, there were squandered pieces of a broken glass as well as a broom and a dustpan. The victim’s housecoat was unnaturally neatly clinging to her forms. There were neither torn buttons, nor distortions, nor pulled up sleeves or skirts. Vieranika had had enough time to make up and to do her hair. She put on everything a lady needs to go out of doors. She had only to take off her housecoat, to put on her dress and bijouterie. In other words, Vieranika had no more than 10 minutes before her departure. Thus, it is possible to conclude, the murder took place around 9.50 am.
It has been surmised Vieranika was killed with a knife. The murderer was supposed to have taken it in the kitchen. The victim’s body had numerous knife cuts. The blade remained in the journalist’s throat. The killer managed to take the handle with him.
This fact together with the proof of restricted access to the apartment let the legal investigators another reason to state the murder had been completed by Vieranika’s close relative.
However, there exist some serious facts, which contradict this version. The killer left a bloody finger-print on a kitchen-drawer he had taken the knife from. It proves the criminal took the kitchen knife after the murder.
Most evidently, the killer came with his own cold steel to the apartment. When Vieranika was already dead or unconscious, he took a roughly similar knife in the kitchen in order to foul the investigation trail. Also, there exists more serious evidence regarding the case. The witnesses have stated there were noticeable traces of dirty water stains in the corridor, as if someone was trying to clean the foot-prints with a mop. When the legal investigation group was examining the apartment at night, nobody paid attention to the stains. Still, the specialists should have drawn more attention to the stains and the mop, spread out from the outside of the apartment entrance door. Certainly, the mop couldn’t depict any essential traits after all the later feet, but it remained to be serious evidence. Thus, it proved a complete stranger had visited the journalist’s apartment. The majority of people put mops from the outside of the entrance doors. However, Vieranika put it in a knit square form from the inside of the door. This is a family habit that passes from one generation to another. The same way of putting the mob exists in the flat, where Uladzimir Uladzimiravich, Dyjana Cimafiejeuna and Anton live. In other words, after the dreadful crime, the murderer cleaned the floor in the hall. Then, he spread out the dirty mob outside of the entrance doors, thus giving himself away.
The Strange Facts
All described queer facts inevitably attract attention to them after a closer look at the place of crime. Another piece of evidence in the row was an odd scene of highly emotional and violent murder. The experts found 43 knife cuts on Vieranika’s body. Most of them were made on the journalist’s hands as if she had been struggling till her last breath. However, there remained too little blood at the place of tragedy for such a sinister homicide. The drops of blood found on the wall nearby indicated they had been splashed from a much closer distance than the hypothetic place of Vieranika’s murder. Moreover, the drops of blood differed in size. Also, there existed breaks between the drops of the same trajectory. By the way, this conclusion has been proved by one of the most famous Belarusan specialists in crime detection we asked for advice. He supported our assumption. Most likely, the killer was splashing the blood on the wall in order to give the utterly emotional air to the crime. This hypothesis might be proved by means of holding a physical and technical expertise. Unfortunately, we don’t have the possibility to arrange an examination of the kind.
Also, it seems strange that apart from a glass that got incomprehensibly broken on a soft carpet, there could be found no other traits of struggle or quarrel. Surprisingly, just in half a metre from Vieranika’s left hand there could be found a stack with books, a radio phone and many other things. In the invited criminalist’s opinion, Vieranika would have hit against something for sure, should she have tried to resist the offender’s attack. Moreover, it is evident she would have certainly grasped the book-stand and turned it upside-down. Nothing of the kind took place there. Therefore, it is possible to state with a high probability that Vieranika didn’t resist and didn’t fall down. Consequently, we drive at the conclusion, she was slaughtered quickly. Then, the killer simply framed up the bloody carnage scene.
Notwithstanding the disseminated information as if there were no witnesses of the committed crime, still, there was a little girl, who heard when and how the journalist got murdered. On October 20, the kid was watching a cartoon on TV from 9 till 10 am. The film was nearly at the end, when she heard that someone was walking at the landing. Then, the neighbors’ door got opened, “a lady said “Oh!””, the door closed shut and everything became quite.
Actually, the little girl’s evidence can’t be taken into consideration by the court. However, it suits well the other facts: the time of murder (around 9.50 am, at the end of the cartoon film), a quick homicide and a lack of any struggle (the muted “Oh!” and nothing else), a stranger in the apartment (the wrongly placed mop and the attack at the entrance). The girl’s words are indirectly confirmed by her mother and the neighbors. The latter stated the walls in the block of flats were too thin. Thus, even watching the TV, one could hear the rustling of a neighbor’s carpet and people’s steps at the landing outside of the entrance door. Moreover, the girl would definitely hear the uproar of struggle in Vieranika’s flat and her cries for help, if she had uttered any.
The Legal Investigation Procedure
It is possible to presume, the legal investigators failed to notice the described facts. Also, it is possible to suppose, the prosecution office workers and the specialists in crime detection were suffering from acute headache at that very time and that they didn’t have enough energy to ponder over evident proofs. However, nothing can explain the well-arranged badgering of Vieranika’s 14-year-old son that started immediately after the scene examination.
At 3 am Dyjana Cimafiejeuna, Uladzimir Uladzimiravich and Anton were delivered to the Criminal Investigation Department at the Saviecki District Department of Internal Affairs in Minsk for holding interrogations. Strangely, it was Anton, whom the police officers were pressing especially hard. Firstly, he got questioned in his grandfather’s presence, as Uladzimir Uladzimiravich protested against breaking the teen-ager’s rights. Anton answered all the questions. He explained that being released from the Physical Culture classes he didn’t go the second lesson. Instead, he went to the “Akvabel” market in order to search for a new computer mouse there. He phoned his Mom in the tram. She was still alive at the moment.
Having heard the guy’s complete explanations, the legal investigators thanked him and asked him to wait in the corridor, while they would talk with Uladzimir Uladzimiravich. Immediately afterwards, Anton was lured to another cabinet. Breaking all procedural rules, the criminal police officers started questioning the guy in a very rude and unceremonious way. It should be especially stressed the investigation had absolutely no reasons for suspecting Anton in committing the crime then. It was figured out much later that the guy had made a mobile phone call to his mother. According to Anton’s words, he phoned up his Mom near the Sievastopalski Park. Still, the signal was caught by a GSM tower, located near Vieranika’s house close to Biady and Niekrasava Streets. Basing on this fact, the police started suspecting Anton in killing his own mother. It is a very convenient and useful version for discrediting independent journalists by the official propaganda.
As Anton is currently regarded as the main suspect in committing the crime, we should dwell more precisely upon his personality and his role in the case. Vieranika’s relatives, friends and acquaintances state the journalist’s relations with her son were simply perfect. The colleagues were touched by Anton’s courteous behavior in relation to his mother. He was caring for her health and helped her with heavy bags. Such relations with parents for 14-year-old guys are really rare these days. Vieranika was very much upset she couldn’t live together with her son because of her constant pressure of work. Still, she hoped in a couple of years, as Anton would grow older and need less parental care it might be possible to do. Aiming at this perspective, Vieranika started furnishing Anton’s room first. Nevertheless, Anton has never been ‘an ideal’ child. He smokes a little and can have a pint of beer with his friends and flirts with girls. In other words, he is a common teen-ager. His alibi, as if at the murder time he was at the “Akvabel” market hasn’t been supported by anyone. Anton spent about three minutes at the market. He didn’t buy anything and didn’t have a talk with anybody. Therefore, there’s no person, who could recollect him there. Still, the truth can be proved by a number of experiments.
The legal investigation followed this algorithm, but it was done in an extremely strange way. Contrary to the set legal norms, the held experiment conditions were deliberately far from the real situation. The investigatory action aimed at supporting or disproving Anton’s evidence on the spot by means of figuring out the guy’s actions in the period between the end of the first lesson at 8.45 am and the beginning of the third lesson at 10.05, when he returned to school. However, instead of reconstructing and fixing the real actions in the past, the legal investigators commenced the experiment an hour later and went to the Sievastopalski Park by car. The guy was asked to make a phone call from that place. Then, Anton was taken to the tram terminal station by car and requested to go to the “Akvabel” market on foot. The experimentalists didn’t hide the main thing for them was to settle the mobile communication station that would ‘catch’ the phone call. Still, the investigation experiment proved that Anton had managed to come to the market and to return to school before the following lesson in time. However, it is still unclear if the court will take these facts as an acceptable alibi, if Anton would be taken to the court. As for the mobile communication towers, it should be emphasized that the GSM-1800 standard stations, utilized by the “MTS” company, cover the area of 6-8 km and provide steady connection in the distance of 1.5 km in cities. It is one km only from the Sievastopalski Park to the GSM tower that ‘caught’ Anton’s call. Therefore, there’s nothing strange in that fact.
In order to examine thoroughly, if Anton might be connected with his mother’s death, we held an experiment of our own. In contrast to the investigatory action, we decided to make it as close as possible to the reality. Instead of going to the market, we went to Vieranika’s house. Finally, we got very interesting results. The first children left the school after the ring at 8.47 am. We approached the tram stop “Bialinski Street” at 8.50 am. At 8.51 am, we entered a tram No.8 and at 8.54 we were at the beginning of Niekrasau Street. 12 minutes later we came up to Vieranika’s entrance No.9. Another minute was needed to come up to the apartment door. Thus, logically thinking, Anton had to be at his Mom’s at 9.07 am, and then, it was quite senseless to phone her at 9.15 am. Even if to suppose, the guy was wandering somewhere and came to his mother much later, it was unreal for him to murder Vieranika at 9.50 am. In this case, he would be late for school. Also, it seems unlikely that Anton might attack his Mom at the entrance door.
The Mystery of the Closed Apartment
If to suppose the murder was committed by an absolutely alien person, it is important to learn how he could enter the flat. Surprisingly, it appeared very easy to do. We came thrice to Vieranika’s entry in the block of flats and phoned to random apartments, using the door intercommunication system in order to ask Vieranika’s neighbors to open the entrance door. We represented ourselves as journalists, electricians etc. The only person, who refused to open the entrance, was a baby-sitter, taking care after a sick child. The lady had been requested by the child’s parents not to open the doors to anyone. The rest of dwellers showed surprising carelessness. They opened the entrance door and went out from their apartments to have a look at the alien visitor. It should be stressed this experiment took place after the dreadful murder!
Moreover, at the second floor landing there was opened an electrical control unit. Neither the neighbors, nor the utility servants have touched this door in the recent time. Thus, it proves sure the control unit was opened by a stranger. Most likely, he connected Vieranika via the door intercommunication system, represented himself as an electrician and asked to let him in so that he might have a look at the control unit. Like her neighbors, Vieranika might have opened the entrance door and left the apartment to meet the utility man. The killer opened the control unit door in order to imitate his work and attacked the journalist at the very moment she turned from him to return to the apartment. It is a mere version. However, it connects well with all the other facts and pieces of evidence.
Also, it should be mentioned the keys to all entrance doors can be easily stolen from the local office of Utility Services.
The killer didn’t steal Vieranika’s gold jewels. Her money in the purse as well as 1,350 USD in the desk remained untouched. Therefore, the robbery version is completely excluded. Also, the version with the son seems to be utterly unreal. The only remaining motive is the journalist’s professional activity. However, nothing special has been found in Vieranika’s articles, contributed to the “BDG”, the “Bielorusskaya Gazieta” and “Salidarnasc” newspapers that could provoke a person on committing such a terrifying homicide.
Still, she had a contact with a person, fixed by the voice mail that could reveal the real motives of the committed murder. The journalist used to meet an “Infobank” officer, who was personally dealing with the financial side of governmental contracts with Iraq. Vieranika got acquainted with the person two years ago after a series of scandals in the press, touching upon the rumors on the “Infobank” possible relation with whitewashing the money from selling the armor to Iraq. In order to calm down the public opinion, the bank administration decided to organize a visit for the journalists to the country so that the press-men could see the bank’s activities in Iraq on the spot. Both Vieranika and the bank officer were in the delegation group. According to the journalist’s parents, Vieranika had no contacts with the person since then till lately. She recommenced meetings with the banker not long before her death. All of a sudden, she started collecting all information on the “Infobank” that had previously appeared in the press.
Thus, we have returned to the motive of fear. It is unknown, if Vieranika was preparing a newspaper material on the armor sales to Iraq, but her close contacts with the “Infobank” official and her collection of corresponding newspaper materials could certainly scare some engaged officials, and those might be much more important officials than ordinary bankers. In its turn, the fear generates aggressiveness.
Till now, it is the only plausible motive of the committed crime. However, the independent journalist investigation is to be continued.